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W-K buying UptoDate for $400 million? Still rubbish.

In Information industry on September 14, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

So Wolters Kluwer are buying UptoDate for probably something around $400 odd million? Well, UptoDate does apparently make around $80 million a year, and has seen “double-digit organic revenue growth” over the last 4 years, according to WK Health – but it does seem rather a lot of money, and apparently there was a bit of bidding war. WK do claim to be interested in dominating the point-of-care market so it looks like a strategically valid purchase, credit crunch or no credit crunch. But what can WK Health bring to the party? Apparently, “The combination of UpToDate and Wolters Kluwer Health provides the market with a unique value proposition for advancing patient care while reducing medical costs,” said Dr. Denise Basow, Editor-In-Chief of UpToDate. “Jointly, we can deliver a full suite of solutions to physicians and patients” [link]. I can’t really see how a clinical, point-of-care tool, particularly a non-EB tool, can have an impact on reducing medical costs; the needs of commissioning and procurement is totally different from the needs of a clinician on the ward. Still, what gets me is that, however popular it is to its users, UptoDate is pretty rubbish, don’t you think? Nobody likes it, apart from those pesky doctors… and they only like it because they or their mate probably wrote it. It’s old school. It’s opinion-based medicine. Yet it remains staggeringly successful. *he says with a heavy sigh.*

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7 Responses to “W-K buying UptoDate for $400 million? Still rubbish.”

  1. Why is UptoDate catnip for doctors? I’ve always heard that as well, and seen articles enthusing about UptoDate because doctors rank it number 1 or 2. Perhaps they have drastically changed it in the past two years, but it certainly was not evidence-based when I used it. Actually, the sample topics do look much better than it used to be. Hmm, but one wonders if over-reliance on UptoDate could be harmful as docs may feel covered and might not wonder if there is other, international research or grey literature that is missing.

  2. We are just starting a trial of UTD in my trust.

    One reason I think doctors like it is the interface. A simple search gives a shortish list of directly related fulltext materials. These in turn are concise but with plenty of links to related matters.

    Looking at the content it seems to me that what it most closely resembles is a medical textbook or perhaps an electronic version of Medicine http://www.medicinejournal.co.uk/ (a publication much liked by medics).

    From what others have reported on lis-medical and the like UTD tends to get heavily used – more so than plenty of other things we spend good money on.

    Clearly it meets some sort of need. Perhaps we need to be looking how we can give an UTD style search with a stronger EBM backing?

  3. Thanks for the comment, Alan. I agree that what it resembles the most is an online textbook. And to be fair to UTD it doesn’t matter in the slightest if I like it or not. What they’ve been able to do is effectively target and ‘get on the side of’ their end users: clinicians, and they’re the ones who convince their medical libraries to buy it, even if against the wishes of its librarians. UTD realise that what Drs want is the type of authority they get by asking (e.g.) their senior cardiologist about what to do about CVD. They want to know quickly and easily what to do and how to do it. What they don’t want, at the point of care, is a high quality Cochrane review that takes ages to read and exists in glorious isolation of all the other possible therapeutic alternatives.

    UTD knows what doctors want, because it’s doctors who write and run the thing, and they give it to them. They don’t try and change or lead behaviour. They offer confirmation and safety. It’s not brave, exciting or glamorous. It’s no iPod, changing the world, but it is a safe, big seller. It’s the Mills and Boons of point of care publishing. And good for them too.

    At least that’s how see it!

  4. UpToDate has always been EB. They only recently added the EB grading (in summary sections) to articles. How can you have EB medicine without EXPERTS’ OPINIONS to decifer the evidence? And, yes, I work for UpToDate 🙂

  5. Hi Brian. Do you really work for UpToDate? What fun. And here I am I having just slagged off your product. I feel bad, I really do! I have to admit that I’m a good couple of years out of date of UpToDate, if that makes sense… I no longer have access to it. I do though acknowledge, as I said above, that it makes not a blind bit of difference whether I like UTD or not.

    Without getting into an interminable and very dull discussion about what makes EB and what doesn’t… How are you and your colleagues feeling about being taken over by WK Health?

  6. WK seems to be a decent fit. I agree at first glance, UTD does not seem to benefit greatly from this, but what you don’t see is the back office systems that need replaced/updated. But more importantly, we have been asked by our customers to integrate more into their IT systems. So we could either create those systems, or merge with someone who already had them.

    Yes, I really do work for UTD.

  7. WK seems to be a decent fit. I agree at first glance, UTD does not seem to benefit greatly from this, but what you don’t see is the back office systems that need replaced/updated. But more importantly, we have been asked by our customers to integrate more into their IT systems. So we could either create those systems, or merge with someone who already had them.

    Yes, I really do work for UTD. By the way, the sale completed yesterday.

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