HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Jumping on the Internet Bandwagon
Negotiations are underway between Harvard Medical School and an undisclosed company to offer Harvard's 180 continuing medical courses online within a year, the Boston Globe reports. Though Harvard has historically distanced itself from Web ventures, it is beginning to acknowledge the competition posed to its popular CME program -- 40,000 participants per year -- by online programs. Dr. Stephen Goldfinger, medical school dean for continuing education, said that the "Harvard name alone has been so successful at attracting doctors and patients that there's been an unwillingness to risk the university's reputation by linking with dotcoms, many of which are laden with advertising." However, Harvard has recently taken the plunge into Internet ventures: some doctors at Harvard affiliate Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been writing for the consumer site CBS HealthWatch, and Harvard Medical School is finalizing an agreement to run InteliHealth, Aetna U.S. Healthcare's consumer site. Goldfinger estimates that the online CME program will require $25 million in the first five years to update technology and marketing. The hope is that the program's revenue could go toward scholarships and research.
Physicians by Day, DotCom Entrepreneurs by Night
In an attempt to temper the rapid increase in the number of Harvard teaching hospital physicians moonlighting for health care dotcoms, the medical school has recently established a policy to ensure that doctors don't neglect their primary responsibilities: Medical school faculty cannot spend more that 20 percent of their time working as outside consultants, and may not teach for competing educational institutions, including online programs, without permission. While physicians have been heavily recruited by Internet health care companies, Harvard University Associate Provost Dennis Thompson said "it's unclear whether physicians will be allowed free rein to consult for online second opinion and consumer education sites." And as Harvard takes over the Aetna site, it could become a "thorny issue." He added, "It's not exactly the same as competing with Harvard in its traditional educational role ... But could a Harvard faculty member go work for baby Aetna? ... This is unchartered territory and it hasn't been decided" (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 6/30).