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June 29, 2012, 12:51 pm
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Andy Weissberg, CEO, DotHealth

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Editor’s Note: Our last issue included a news release regarding DotHealth, LLC’s application to establish .health as a generic top-level domain (gTLD) with the intent of providing a safer and more secure online namespace for global health stakeholders. This week we’re pleased to feature an interview with Andy Weissberg, co-founder and CEO of DotHealth, and share a bit more about the process of establishing .health and what it could mean to medical travel and all aspects of the healthcare industry.

Medical Travel Today (MTT): First, best of luck with your application. Can you share a bit about the process and timing for actually making .health available to the healthcare industry?

Andy Weissberg (AW): The application process is complex and far from complete. For .health to become available, ICANN first has to delegate the registry rights to an applicant. In fact, there are actually several other entities vying for the .health gTLD. What sets us apart from them and, I hope, will ultimately result in our securing it is the fact that we’re the only industry-facing applicant with a healthcare background, with industry support and industry endorsement. The other players are financially oriented or pure technology players. Of course, finances will play a role here but lots can happen prior to a delegation decision being made by ICANN.

As for the process, the way it works is that each entity applies to ICANN, which is governing this process. When you apply, you are initially asked to specify the type of gTLD you are intending to bring to market and to explain the various approaches you’ll take in supporting your registry model. Your TLD could be geographic, government, standard or community-based. Unlike in a “standard” TLD, where eligibility criteria don’t apply, for example, in its TLD application for .pharmacy, the NABP specifies that only authorized online pharmacies that meet all regulatory standards are eligible to register in the .PHARMACY namespace. It’s a closed community. Where there may be some commonality among one or more gTLDs is on policies for acceptable use, but across the 1,900 plus applications that were filed, the criteria for registrations and use could be quite variant depending on the actual strings or applicants involved.

In your application there are many different criteria you have to meet and pass – dozens of questions and requirements that roll up into three key areas – financial, technical and operational. This “test” takes at least nine months and could take as long as 20 months in the event of an extended evaluation. If one or more applicants successfully pass the test, if they survive string contention or objections, they have a limited period of time to work out a deal – but only one entity gets delegated. Otherwise, it goes to auction. And in that scenario, let’s just say that a few marketing VP’s might have to adjust their marketing plans and budgets!

Prior to an auction scenario, there’s an objection process during which anyone, including non-applicants, can object to any particular application based on various grounds.

1.) The first is the GAC (Government Advisory Committee) Early Warning.
Representatives of nearly every major country serve on GAC and if they, by consensus, determine your string is harmful or not in the best interest of users they can file an early warning with the ICANN Board, which would either remove you from contention or force you to consider exiting the process of your own accord.

2.) The second is a limited public interest objection. Basically, an independent evaluator can file that your intent is “contrary to generally accept legal norms.” It’s pretty much a moral judgment call that keeps profanities and vulgarities from being used as strings.

3.) There’s also the legal rights objection. This applies in a trademark situation so that someone who is not affiliated with a trademarked name can’t use the name. It shouldn’t be an issue for .health, although other criteria along these lines may present complexity.

4.) Then there’s Community objection. This is when an applicant or another entity representing the community that your string targets could suggest that you don’t represent the interests of that community.

Since .health is being applied for by four applicants, while each applicant now comprises a “contention set” there is also the possibility of “string confusion.” This is applies when an applied-for gTLD character string is so similar to an existing TLD or to another applied-for gTLD string that it’s likely to result in user confusion.

The potential objections are extremely complex but strikingly simple.

MTT: Let’s assume the best and that you clear all the necessary hurdles. What happens next?

AW: If we make it through string contention and the dispute resolution process, we would then transition to delegation as the registry operator. In connection with our launch, by mandate, we would have to organize and execute a “sunrise” period in which only rights holders can register names for a minimum 60-day timeframe. That is, the holder of a trademark name can first register to use the .health string so as long as they’ve entered the Trademark Clearinghouse, which is a new and major improvement in the world of domain names that protects rights holders. After that, the next phase, which is known as “landrush,” begins and standard registrations are available, as well as premium names.

MTT: What happens if someone wants to register something like, say, yoga.health?

AW: As a registry, we can set aside and reserve names that are not trademarked. Yoga.health is one of 10,000 generic health-related terms that we plan to reserve, and can release or sell on a premium basis.

Since our goal is to create a safe name space that protects users and registrants, offers a higher standard of acceptable use, and works to prohibit online fraud and crime, we’re taking care to protect specific terms like Yoga.health.

What we don’t want is names like cancer.health or diabetes.health going to the wrong type of user. Towards that, we’ve identified a request for information (“RFI”) process in which we will request information from prospective applicants who will be invited to tell us how they plan to use the name. For example, how the name will be positioned or used in support of patient education campaigns, advertising or marketing programs or otherwise, as well as how the applicant intends to comply with our policies as well as other policies that may exist in regulatory or industry standards. That will help ensure that we place the names in the hands of the right people, and then it gets to the public.

Ultimately, it behooves us to make sure that the caliber of registrants is very high and credible. The more credible the users and the more the names are used, the better it is for all .health registrants.

MTT: So for those in the medical travel field, how soon can we apply to use .health?

AW: The earliest we will be able to launch the .health registry is Q2 2013. During that time a lot can happen so it could be longer, although it is reasonable that we would launch sometime in 2013 if we are delegated.

MTT: And what do you feel the opportunity or value of the string is for medical travel?

AW: The value – and this applies to any string, not just .health – is a semantic one.
There’s a semantic nature to every string. It signals some relationship of the entity to the name. It’s a semantic value proposition that didn’t really exist before. You’re not just destination.com but destination.health, or facilityname.org but facilityname.health. It’s an opportunity to leverage a memorable domain name that signals a focus or emphasis on health.

Although Google and other search engines haven’t been completely clear about this, it’s inevitable that they will weight gTLDs in a way that hasn’t been done before. Sure, authoritative content, links and other basic SEO rules will continue to apply, but we expect that gTLDs will have an influence how things are indexed and revealed to searchers in their discovery process. And, because there will be hundreds of new gTLDs to index, being semantically relevant will certainly play a role in distinguishing authoritative health content from its alternatives.

With .health there are many propositions for many stakeholder segments in medical travel. For example, restaurants or hotel chains that have a medical travel business and marketing agenda could use .health to semantically stamp and position their medical travel services and create a shorter and more memorable way for making them discoverable and accessible to target audiences.

I anticipate that there’s going to be a ton of travel industry folks including regions, countries and cities interested in being part of .health. I foresee a lot of directory oriented businesses and models eventually using third level names. You might have travel.health preceded by a hotel name, say, hilton.travel.health. That concept expands even further to include things like stemcells.travel.health, and so on.

Health is so broad with so many segments – hospitals, service providers, surgeons, hotels, countries, pharmaceuticals, etc. – so it’s likely they will all have an interest in leveraging the semantic value alone.

MTT: While I appreciate that there’s a lot of legitimate use and value to be had, how do you prevent unwanted or misuse of .health?

AW: That’s a great question, and it’s an important issue for us because you can’t take the integrity of the string for granted.

To that end, and to ensure the safety and protection of the registry, we have two huge layers of vigilance.

The first is Neustar, which is our back-end provider and also backing the Company’s efforts on .heath. At the enterprise level, we will be utilizing Neustar’s Cyber-threat mitigation and monitoring service. There is a dual human-machine driven process that aggressively monitors all activity and behavior in the registry and specifically the DNS. For example, if someone tries to use a .health name to execute a phishing scam or a malware attack they’ll be shut down and subject to legal punishment. Neustar already works closely with law enforcement throughout the world and is at the forefront of registry security, which was just part of the reason we chose to work with them as opposed to other registry providers. Taking down rogue online pharmacy sites is a complex issue that requires lots of coordination, although not something we’ll tolerate in .health.

In addition, we have an exclusive deal for the .health TLD with Legitscript, a verification and monitoring service for online pharmacies that is utilized by major search engines like Google and is endorsed by the NABP and others in the healthcare space who are working together to fight health-related fraud and abuse. LegitScript helped us to establish our proposed policies for acceptable use and will work hand-in-hand with Neustar and our entire team to provide an added layer of monitoring and intelligence safeguards that protect end-users and brands. No other domain name registry has adopted this type of approach before, but we see it as essential, especially as we grow. It takes us one step closer to achieving the goal of safety and making the string available to the community. Fortunately, it won’t make .health unaffordable and will play an important role in distinguishing .health as a safer alternative to other current and future TLD options. Our colleagues at the NABP are also planning to use LegitScript for .pharmacy which reinforces our shared commitment and aligned approaches to safety and security.

About Andy Weissberg

Andy has over 18 years of healthcare/life sciences, electronic media, e-learning and information services industry experience.

Prior to co-founding DotHealth, Andy led numerous high-profile digital business transformations in the health sciences and publishing market sectors. Most recently, Andy headed up Bowker’s Identifier Services Strategic Business Unit and ISO Standards operations where he supervised the operations of the U.S. ISBN Agency and played a key role in the evaluation and re-launch of Books In Print, the world’s largest bibliographic database and search and discovery platform for librarians, retailers and institutions worldwide. Andy is a former member of the Board of Directors of the International ISBN Agency, the International ISTC Agency and played a key role in the development and introduction of the International Standard Name Identifier.

From 2005-2007, Andy spearheaded the Electronic Media business for Advanstar’s Life Sciences Group, where he conceptualized, developed and commercialized www.modernmedicine.com. Today, ModernMedicine serves as one of the leading interactive clinical information, continuing medical education (CME), patient education, practice management and clinical decision-support portals for a network of more than 300,000 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and healthcare professionals and their patients. In this role, he was also responsible for the strategic development and advancement of electronic media strategies for over 35 of Advanstar’s journal brands including Pharmaceutical Executive, Medical Economics, Managed Healthcare Executive and Contemporary Pediatrics. Andy also managed the Company’s syndicated medical news platform, Mediwire (www.mediwire.com), and played a key role in establishing Advanstar’s CME business unit, cme2, as an exemplary ACCME-accredited provider of continuing medical education services.

Prior to joining Advanstar and for over a decade, Andy served as an enterprise lead and business developer for several mid-size and large national pharmaceutical and healthcare advertising, marketing and communications agencies, playing key roles in the product launches and marketing campaigns supporting leading pharmaceutical brands for manufacturers, including GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Novartis, Wyeth, Sepracor and SkyePharma. Early in his career, Andy co-founded mediNet Communications, Inc., a healthcare-focused website development and interactive marketing company which served the digital needs of over 100 hospitals, managed care, pharmaceutical and medical device clients nationwide. Andy earned his B.S. in Communications from the University of South Florida.

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