HEALTHEON/WEBMD: Doctors Cool to eHealth Vision
Healtheon/WebMD, the Atlanta- based online health service site, has not succeeded at luring "a critical mass of physicians online," despite touting "reimbursements at lightening speed, instant insurance verification and universal access to medical reasons." Experts speculate that doctors' cool reception to Healtheon stems from several factors, including privacy concerns; being unaccustomed to paying for extras to expedite administrative processes; and because physicians seem "less attuned" to the Internet craze than other professionals. While physicians use "sophisticated technology to ply their trade," according to an American Medical Association study, only 37% use the Internet, with most doctors using the Web for research, vacation planning and e-mail. Healtheon's challenge, therefore, is to encourage doctors to "take a step beyond e-mail and embrace a full range of online services," Reuters/Arizona Republic reports. According to Claudine Singer of Jupiter Communications, the "low-hanging fruit right now is still the folks in medical school." She said, "Critical mass is not going to be there until you're dealing with a population that is used to using electronic mechanisms in their daily work routine." Healtheon also faces growing competition from other health services sites, such as MedicaLogic/Medscape Inc. and McKesson HBOC Inc.'s iMcKesson. But for these sites to survive, they must appeal to doctors, who say they might embrace the Internet if it "can clearly demonstrate how new services will help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively." But Singer suggests, "There is no demonstrable proof [currently available] for [physicians] that going online or changing their work-flow processes with save them time and money" (6/26).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.