Few health economists have the mission to create a globally recognized website of highly curated resources for health economics and outcomes research. Neither did I. But, as the unattributed English proverb states, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.
In this blog, I give you a peek into the history of HealthEconomics.Com and how we started over 26 years ago. This look back in time paves the way for celebrating today’s major milestone: the 500th issue of our HEOR News Roundup, a newsletter that is globally read from Alabama to Azerbaijan and from Zambia to Zaozhuang. We are honored and grateful to be the world’s largest digital resource for health economics, outcomes research, real-world evidence, and market access professionals, and count more than 25,000 research professionals as friends and colleagues within our CONNECTED COMMUNITY™.
The Birth of an Idea
It was 1994, and an opportunity to live in South Africa presented itself to me, a Ph.D. Health Economics student at The University of Sciences in Philadelphia and a former pharmaceutical marketing executive. Fortunately, I had completed all coursework, fielded research on asthma and productivity losses, and was in the final phases of analyzing primary and secondary payer claims data. Adventure possibly awaited, but so did responsibility. How could I complete my research and live full-time in this exotic new country?
Never one to shy away from a challenge or creating something from scratch, I looked to the burgeoning technology arena. Only a few months earlier in the year of 1994, the World Wide Web was born, a.k.a. the Internet as we know it today. Not invented yet were many of the commonly used tools that keep us connected: smartphones, Facebook, flat-screen TVs, Google, Netflix, Dropbox. To get information, one still spent hours in libraries photocopying articles, transmitted documents via FAX or FedEx, or simply relied on the wireless telephone. However, the world was changing and I had the travel bug. It occurred to me that through email and information available on “the web”, I could possibly pull off the completion of my Ph.D. while living in Cape Town. I intended to use the internet to help me with analytic questions and any other hurdles that could present themselves in the final phases of research.
That is, if I could just *find* the information on the circuitous, rather unfriendly and painfully slow internet that was more set up for programmers than the average person.
As shown below, web pages were simple, mostly text, and presented function over form. The bigger challenge was actually finding a resource and getting back to it, if you needed it again. Search engines were basic and fundamental, and there were comparatively few resources on the internet.
A Website Created By You, For You
I deduced that I needed my own web page with links to important subject matter-specific resources. So, we had a webpage designed that looked much like Yahoo’s page. A screenshot no longer exists (even in the WayBack Machine), but many of you recall the hilarious name of my first web page and the impossibly long URL (no vanity URLs existed at the time): Patti Peeples’ Guide to Health Economics, Medical and Pharmacy Resources on the ‘Net, located at http://www.exit109.com/~zaweb/pjp. It featured a thumbnail picture of me on a safari in Kruger National Park, and a list of resource categories spanning from Associations to Quality of Life Research.
I will never forget sitting in my flat in Cape Town, South Africa watching the “visitor counter” at the bottom of the webpage tick up from 8 to 12 to 30, and so on, and being so astonished that people around the world were looking at resources that I had curated on this thing called the internet. Correction, that YOU had curated.
You see, this website had what is probably the earliest version of Crowd Sourcing in our industry. It asked visitors to contribute their own resources, and I’d review and accept on the web page if appropriate. This has always been my favorite part of this story, because you see – HealthEconomics.Com was built BY YOU, FOR YOU.
The web page worked in terms of providing me with necessary resources, and I was able to finish analyzing and writing my dissertation. I also met a number of colleagues, and found 2 jobs (first in South Africa, then in California) through these relationships.
A few years later, after returning to the United States and moving back into the pharmaceutical industry to lead an HEOR Department, I found that many of you relied on my website for news, information and resources. I still maintained the website as a side hobby and never failed to be surprised at its reach, brand awareness and impact. On routine occasion, I’d meet someone at an industry conference and they’d cite something they’d found on the webpage. In 1998, we bought the domain name HealthEconomics.Com for $9.99 and rebranded. Around 2006, when HealthEconomics.Com was #1 on Google for health economics, I developed a business plan that included a revenue model.
Since 1994, this website has grown, improved, rebranded, employed dozens of individuals, touched tens of thousands of HEOR professionals, and helped thousands find jobs, create a presentation or find a graduate school. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and the role we’ve played in advancing digital communications for health economics and outcomes research. We take pride in innovative thinking and pushing the boundaries of communication. We like to be first, but more importantly, we like to be credible, reliable, transparent, and respected.
- The 1st webpage devoted to health economics resources
- The 1st HEOR-specific newsletter
- The 1st crowd sourcing for relevant content in HEOR
- The 1st HEOR-specific job board
- The 1st virtual conference in HEOR
- The 1st online career fair for HEOR
- The 1st internet-based academic recruiting tool for online graduate programs in HEOR
- The 1st HEOR Salary Survey
- The 1st to use storytelling for marketing (HE-Artists)
- The 1st online advertising for HEOR
- The 1st in social media on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in HEOR
- The 1st HEOR Marketplace
- The 1st HEOR Writing Workshop
- The biggest repository of HEOR-related resources
- The largest online audience for HEOR
- The biggest social media network for HEOR
- The longest-running newsletter for HEOR
As we age, it becomes more evident that what really matters are relationships. This is so true with respect to HealthEconomics.Com and our CONNECTED COMMUNITY. I’m honored to engage with so many of you across the world. From students who are thinking about a career in health economics, to an experienced executive that might need a suggestion for a resource, I’m uplifted each day when you reach out. Two of my favorite memories are people who used HealthEconomics.Com – one for education, another for safety.
In 2008, I was contacted by a young man from Malawi, Africa who was a pharmacist but had greater aspirations based on the needs of his country for equitable health care access. He will remain anonymous because I’ve lost touch with him and thus do not have permission to share personal details. This gentleman would walk 3 hours to get to an internet café and on this day, sent me an email asking for advice. He was a frequent visitor of HealthEconomics.Com and was using the resources to self-educate because he wanted to help his country address these problems in health care. He had the will, but not the tools. The free resources on HealthEconomics.Com were helpful but not sufficient. When he described his goal and challenges, I was deeply touched. I used the newsletter distribution list of HealthEconomics.Com and shared his story, asking for donations of textbooks, articles, resources, and more from you – our readers. A month later, you had sent 500 pounds of books and more. Personal letters accompanied your donations, encouraging him to study and do good work for his country. I hadn’t anticipated such a large amount of heavy books, and the cost to ship this to Malawi, Africa was going to be cost-prohibitive. So, I asked for your help again, and once more, you came through. An anonymous donor picked up the entire cost of shipping these resources to the young man. He stayed in touch with me for a few years and did procure a job with his Ministry of Health. I know he continues to make an impact. I’d like to say thank you, once again, to all who donated and made this a success story.
In another part of the world, I’m reminded of a story from an aspiring young healthcare researcher in the country of Georgia around 2009. He sent me an email as he hid in his basement from opposition party protests. He said that he chose to spend time on HealthEconomics.Com reading every resource he could to take his mind off the chaos. He had the intent of bringing better health care to his people. This website was his safe place during this difficult time. He just wanted me to know this. I still remember.
Those are just a few of the stories of HealthEconomics.Com. Our mission remains unchanged from the company inception, although the focus on RWE and Market Access has been added.
HealthEconomics.Com is the world’s largest digital CONNECTED COMMUNITY that provides a single global link to the health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), real-world evidence (RWE), and Market Access (MA) stakeholder communities. Since 1994, we have provided unparalleled access to drive research, improve knowledge, and connect with key stakeholders worldwide.
As a company, we prioritize excellence, customer service, and integrity. These guiding principles also make HealthEconomics.Com a great place to work. I think this is best demonstrated by the longevity of our employees, most of whom have been with us for almost 10 years. We are a mini but mighty team and we appreciate you!
I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane for HealthEconomics.Com. Please join me in recognizing the accomplishment of the 500th issue of the HEOR News Roundup newsletter, and thank you for being part of our CONNECTED COMMUNITY. Let me hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.