One of the four “verticals” of the new Live Search 2.0 is Health, available at https://health.live.com. Actually the first of the new features of the service is just that, an encrypted entry into search about health information, using the https: secure sockets layer. Microsoft did a lot of testing to find out what users were looking for in health information, and security and privacy were high on the list.
Much of the new look and performance of health.live.com comes about as a result of the Microsoft acquisition of MedStory. Microsoft bought the privately held company last February, gaining a foothold in a potentially lucrative health search and health information market. According to MSNBC News:
Overall, health-care costs are expected to make up about 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product by the year 2015. The number of people seeking health care information on the Internet should expand substantially as aging baby boomers develop ailments associated with the senior years. Also seniors are among the fastest growing segment on the Internet.
And the acquisition press release offers further incentive to offer a better health search product:
According to an October 2006 study* by the Pew Internet & American Life Project,
8 million people in the United States go online for health information every day, and 53 percent of health-seekers said a recent search had an impact on how they take care of themselves or someone else. Yet 22 percent of respondents said they felt frustrated by a lack of information or an inability to find what they were looking for.
So there’s good reason to improve search for health related information. Health.live.com, for a first release, provides an interesting and useful approach. Getting started, from Live.com, there is currently only a link to health.live.com from the drop down “more” box, although it remains to be seen where all these “beta” tabs end up:
A current search from the Live.com page does not offer a link to the health results, but that too may change soon (afraid I don’t have it in my notes):
Once the Health search is initiated (either through the Health (beta) tab or from navigating to https://health.live.com, for now), the MedStory influence becomes apparent. Here’s the page in Live Search:
and the same search at MedStory:
A closer look at the top portions of these pages shows that the information shown on health.live.com is coming directly from MedStory – the bar graphs in MedStory have been changed to lighter and darker boxes, but the information is the same. Health.live.com provides more information in a well laid out page, though, augmenting the web results with Article Results, and Sponsored Results. According to those I talked to at Searchification, those “Sponsored Results” may or may not be paid ads – we were shown one set of results linking to a government survey. Quite a bit of information is provided in the Article Results, offering “Instant Answer” type results without having to navigate away from the search page, the results here linking to the US National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus:
The overall effort here is to provide lots of information within a single page, leveraging information from MedStory and other sources. Links to more information are well laid out and visually attractive, and in general the experience seems better than just searching on a main search page. Expect lots more emphasis on these “verticals”, as Live Search seeks to differentiate itself, and increase market share.