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Friday Q&A: Dr. Mike Steinberg of HouseCall123

After a beta launch at the end of 2008, Insomnia123.com, the first condition-specific Web site from Glenside-based Web start up HouseCall123 went live last month with new features and focus. Dr. Mike Steinberg, who co-founded HouseCall123 last February, is the public side of the new Web franchise – not a small first foray into the […]


After a beta launch at the end of 2008, Insomnia123.com, the first condition-specific Web site from Glenside-based Web start up HouseCall123 went live last month with new features and focus.
Dr. Mike Steinberg, who co-founded HouseCall123 last February, is the public side of the new Web franchise – not a small first foray into the Web world.
“Having my face across the internet is a strange experience,” says Steinberg, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. HouseCall123 is a small operation of telecommuters that hasn’t focused on profitability, Steinberg says, telling Technically Philly he has “a personal interest in the mission of the project.”
But he is combining Philadelphia’s famed health care sector with its growing tech scene. We like it. Dr. Mike stopped curing what ails us long enough to talk about insomnia, recreating the family doctor house-call visit on your iPhone and why he’s technically Philly.

  1. First, we’re new, too, so teach us. Why did you launch HouseCall123 last year?
    The idea was to bring back the old family doc’s “house call” to people’s computers. Too many of my patients conveyed that they were not happy with the amount and quality of time they got to spend with their doctor. Also, they often felt uncomfortable or intimidated in speaking with their doctors. This site empowers patients and gives them tools to learn about their condition, talk to their doctors about their condition, and live a happy and healthy life with their condition.
  2. Tell us about Insomnia123.com. Why the focus?
    Insomnia is a very common yet serious health condition. It is not merely a nuisance as many believe but contributes to increased risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and depression. It contributes to over 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths each year. As many as 70 million people in this country suffer from some kind of sleep problem and 7 out of 10 of them never talk to their doctors about it. Of those who do, many of them aren’t satisfied with the information they get. That’s why we built Insomnia123.com, to help those people learn about insomnia so that they can talk to their doctors about it and know that there is help available.The site has some really unique features. All of the content is presented in video clips as well as text articles. There are tools to help you track your sleep and analyze your sleep health, tips to help you talk to your doctor about what’s going on, even free downloadable sleep music that can help you relax and fall asleep. The sleep music has been the No. 1 draw to the site so far.
  3. mike-steinbergWhat are the specific challenges of a medical-related Web site?
    In our case, the biggest challenge has been in trying to recreate the family doctor house-call visit when you can’t personally interact with each person. I think we’ve gotten as close as possible by using streaming video, interactive tools, as well as by educating and encouraging people to go talk to their own doctors.
  4. What are your future goals, for HouseCall123, Insomnia123.com and yourself? Could this become full-time?
    The plan is to expand and create Web sites for many different health conditions, so HouseCall123 will continue to grow. As for me personally, I like to leave the possibilities open, but I think I’ll be a practicing physician and a professor for a long time. This venue is one that allows me to help a much broader range of people than would have been possible in general practice.
  5. Any new upcoming features or additions to either site or other projects?
    The next thing in line for Insomnia123 is an iPhone application. It is a version of the sleep diary that’s on the Web site but will work on the iPhone. It can upload to the site if you want it to or be used alone. If you have insomnia, you’ll have to try it, you just might figure out what’s keeping you awake.
  6. You’re based in Glenside. What does the Philly tech scene look like on your end of things?
    I’m a doctor, not a tech guy, but I can see that the Philadelphia region is rich in biotech innovation and also has a lot of great interactive agencies. I think Philly has the ingredients for a thriving e-health industry.
  7. Prove you’re Technically Philly.
    I was born in Northeast Philly and spent most weekends with my grandparents who lived there. I grew up in Cherry Hill, and I’ve lived in N.J. and Pa. my whole life. I did my residency training and stayed on faculty at Jefferson Hospital while living in Bucks County. Currently, I live in central Jersey, and I come to Philly every chance I get for cheesesteaks and Flyers, Eagles and Phillies games.

Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

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