With all of the great and trustworthy health information on WebMD, you may wonder, "Who finances all of this? Me? Doctors? Other companies?" Read on to find out more.
For you as an inquiring health information consumer, the answer is: yes, WebMD is free. It costs you no money to do any of these things:
Browse WebMD's information, tools, and articles
Sign up for an account on WebMD
Subscribe to WebMD's online magazine or any of its specialty newsletters
Join one of WebMD's online communities and start or take part in discussions
So if you're not footing WebMD's bill, then who is? Well, there are three major ways that WebMD gets the cash flow necessary to keep running.
Like many other free-to-use websites on the Internet, WebMD makes money by selling advertising space to interested companies. You can usually identify them by them having the word "Advertisement" near them somewhere.
There are also some people who suggest that doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies must pay money in order to be listed in WebMD's directories (which, it could be argued, is a form of advertisement).
Some of the content on WebMD is sponsored by other healthcare-related businesses. You will usually be able to identify this content, because it will say "From Our Sponsor" somewhere, accompanied by the sponsor's logo, like so:
As we mentioned in our WebMD Review and Is WebMD Reliable? articles, there are some people who worry that partnerships like this mean that the information in these articles is biased towards selling products for pharmaceutical (and other healthcare-related) companies rather than actually helping you take care of your health. To that, we will repeat two things.
First, it is unlikely that WebMD would allow these companies to sponsor content if they didn't know at least something about the topic. Second, despite this, no information or advice on WebMD should be taken at face value, and should be discussed with a medical professional before being acted upon in any way.
WebMD is more than just one website. It's actually a large network of health-related businesses including Medscape, MedicineNet, RxList, eMedicineHealth, and WebMD Health Services. Most of these other services are free, but like WebMD's main website itself, contain advertisements or corporate-sponsored content. Some, such as WebMD Health Services, are private healthcare management and education portals that cost money to use.
And that's a short explanation of how WebMD makes money, and what it means for you!
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