Healthline Lands $14 Million In Funding - InformationWeek

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4/30/2010
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Healthline Lands $14 Million In Funding

The funds will be used to boost the online health information firm's content, sales, and advertising platform.

Healthline Networks will receive $14 million in a third round of funding led by Investor Growth Capital, the wholly owned venture capital arm of Investor AB. Other investors include GE/NBC Universal's Peacock Equity Fund, a joint venture between GE Capital's media, communications & entertainment business and NBC Universal, and Reed Elsevier Ventures.

Healthline Networks, a San Francisco-based company that provides health information services online, said it will use the funds to expand research and development, engineering, sales, and network services to meet the growing demand from a broad spectrum of consumer-focused media and healthcare businesses looking to improve the way consumers find, understand, and manage health-related information. The company also intends to expand its advertising platform and services.

"Consumers have become increasingly engaged in their own healthcare, and smart organizations are looking to capitalize on this trend," Phil Dur, IGC's managing director, said in a statement.

Dur, who is a member of Healthline's board of directors, also said the investment is consistent with IGC's track record of partnering with industry-leading companies.

"We're looking forward to assisting Healthline with its efforts to continue to provide products that not only help consumers, but media and healthcare partners as well," Dur said.

Liz Boehm, an analyst covering healthcare and life sciences at Forrester Research, said HealthLine's fundamental value proposition is to help parse health content in ways that help consumers narrow in on the content that's most relevant to them.

"They're sort of like a marriage between Google and WebMD, with a strong focus on search, but a very health-specific way of presenting information," Boehm said.

She also noted that consumers are confronted with an enormous volume of health information and they need help sifting through it to find what's most pertinent to them. That makes Healthline's offerings relevant, but the competition is great.

"The environment is still challenging -- consumers tend to start their health inquiries at their standard search engine rather than a specialized health location, and HealthLine's B2B business (selling consumer-facing solutions to health plans) is subject to long sales cycles and slow development processes within health plans," Boehm said.

In recent months the company has strengthened its audience reach by inking strategic deals. In April, Healthline signed an agreement with Yahoo to expand Yahoo Health's search and news section. Yahoo will also join the Healthline Media Network which allows companies to buy display-ad space on Yahoo Health.

In March, Healthline introduced Aetna SmartSource, a personalized search engine that mines information from Aetna's vast data resources to deliver personalized health and benefits information to the health insurance firm's members.

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