DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Industry Sees Internet as Powerful Tool
Disease-management companies are using the Internet to control costs and make health services more accessible to the chronically ill -- especially seniors. Companies like LifeMasters Supported SelfCare Inc., Health Hero Network Inc. and LifeChart.com Inc. help seniors to monitor their conditions and manage information. Patients are able to report various information, including blood pressure and weight, over the Internet and reduce the need for trips to hospitals or doctors offices. But Richard Lee, managing director of the Internet investment bank WIT Capital, notes that only 12% of those 65 and older regularly go online. Al Lewis, executive director of the Disease Management Purchasing Consortium, pointed out that online reporting does not offer the same emotional comfort as person-to-person reporting. Some patients enjoy talking with health providers because "it makes [them] feel as though someone cares," he said, adding that the Internet "must complement, not become a substitute for, a traditional disease-management program." Other industry experts worry about patient privacy, a growing concern among lawmakers. Warren Todd, president-elect of the Disease Management Association of America, reaffirmed his belief in the benefits of the Internet, saying that through its use "we have a second chance to fulfill the original promise of disease management: improved quality of life and lower total cost of care" (Westphal, Los Angeles Times, 5/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.