E-HEALTH: AMA Poised to Launch For-Profit Web Site
The American Medical Association is seriously considering launching a for-profit medical "supersite," intending ultimately to take the site public, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The site, which would feature information and services for both patients and physicians, has been under discussion for several months, said AMA CEO Dr. E. Ratcliffe Anderson Jr., though he added, "Any further discussion is premature." Although the AMA's current Web site, www.ama-assn.org, is popular, "its ratings have slipped dramatically in recent months, passed by the likes of drkoop.com." The organization feels the new site would provide it with a way to "strike back." Robert Musacchio, AMA senior vice president for membership and information services, told the AMA's American Medical News that the site is expected to obtain $40 million in investments, half from venture capitalists and half from the AMA and related societies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association. Other sources said the site could generate between $5 million and $10 million a year from advertising revenue and fees for services.
But sources outside the AMA expressed concern that a publicly traded site, beholden to advertisers and investors demanding high returns, could become "another Sunbeam," referring to the AMA's agreement two years ago -- and its subsequent pull-back -- to endorse Sunbeam products. That failed deal cost the AMA several top executives, about 3,000 physician members and $13 million in settlement and related costs. "A source close to the deal insisted: This will not be Sunbeam II." But one physician said, "I really believe this is an example of AMA being totally immune to the lessons of the past. They have had ill-starred attempts in the past to cash in on the medical profession, each time reducing their own integrity and respect" (Wolinsky, 9/29).
In other e-health news:
- A Beverly Hills, CA company is promoting "the latest development on the Internet strictly for use by members of the medical community." The company hosts a site that allows doctors to register Web sites with urls comprised of their own names and the new domain suffix .MD (i.e. www.DoogieHowser.md). The company, Life By Design Consultants, claims that the ".MD names are being registered at breakneck speed by doctors around the world." Name-based sites may be registered at http://www.contacts.md (Life By Design release, 9/30).
- Medscape Inc.'s initial public offering netting the company $50 million, "selling 6.6 million shares to the public at an offering price of $8 per share." The Wall Street Journal reports that shares opened at $8.125, made their way up to $17 and fell back to $13.8 at market close (Carrns, 9/29).
- In the Los Angeles Times' e-commerce column, Sharon Bernstein writes that online pharmacies "have not yet figured out how to smooth the clunky process of taking orders, verifying insurance and prescription authenticity and delivering the product. It can take up to 10 days to receive a prescription and you have to mail or fax the order to them or have your doctor call. Then you have to wait for an e-mail telling you whether the site accepts your insurance" (9/30).
- Aetna U.S. Healthcare Wednesday opened its health.e.nation tour in Manhattan's Columbus Circle. The 800 square-foot, multimedia mobile exhibition brings communities a "look into the future of American health care." Aetna President Michael Cardillo said, "We expect this tour to help open a dialogue between Aetna U.S. Healthcare and the public about the future of health care, the interaction between health and technology, and what is going to be possible in the 21st Century. This type of grassroots focus is increasingly important in our industry, and it will help empower the public to become more informed about their own healthcare choices" (release, 9/28).