INTEL: Launches Ambitious Internet Health Initiative
Intel Corp. Chair Andrew Grove and former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop convened 700 health professionals and 20 health technology companies in San Francisco Tuesday for Internet Health Day, kicking off the chip manufacturer's effort to bring the health care community online. Grove said, "Tens of millions of consumers are online. Members of the health care community can either participate in this revolution or become bystanders to it." According to research by ING Baring Furman Selz LLC, one- third of all Internet users search for health information online "and their numbers are growing by 70% annually" (Fost, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28). A special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that while most U.S. physicians use e-mail to communicate with other doctors, "less than 2% offer patients the option of contacting them online" (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 10/28). Intel also touted a study by Cyber Dialogue Inc. predicting that 30 million adults will search the Internet for "Health/Med" content within the next two years, creating an online mandate for the health industry to become more responsive to customer needs. The survey of 2,000 adults found that more than half of all "Health/Med" Internet users looked for information on diseases such as cancer. Others sought diet and nutrition information, information on prescription drugs, women's health issues, fitness and children's health. Nearly half expressed interest in purchasing drugs, medical supplies, vitamins and food supplements online (Intel release, 10/27).
Brave New Health
At Tuesday's conference, Grove "described a futuristic bustling bazaar of online medical analysis where patients can become educated and empowered," mirroring similar developments in banking, retail and finance. To that end, Intel showcased "20 Internet health sites and technologies at the conference" (Mercury News, 10/28). Grove announced that Intel "has taken minority investments in health care start-ups," including Abaton.com in Bloomington, MN; BabyCenter.com in San Francisco; Ivillage Inc. in New York; CommuniHealth Inc. in Malvern, PA; and LifeMasters Inc. in San Francisco (Takahashi, Wall Street Journal, 10/28). The Portland Oregonian reports that "Intel's strategy is to keep consumers in its crosshairs while it builds the market. ... Its programs position the chip giant as part investor, part cheerleader, part intermediary and part marketer in the segment it calls E-health." Grove said it is in Intel's "enlightened interest" to get consumers to buy computers for as many reasons as possible. As part of the plan, Intel will also donate $90 million in equipment to university research projects, promote clearinghouses where health information can be exchanged online and "[s]pearhead a common set of technology standards to ensure fluid exchanges of information" (Williams, 10/28). For his part, however, Koop had warnings and advice for consumers. He said, "Take charge of your health. In this day of managed care, I can add, if you don't nobody else will. ... The right information and the wrong information glows on the computers screen with the same intensity" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28).
A Good Start
In apparent conjunction with the Intel conference in San Francisco, several companies recently publicized new Internet- based health ventures. Here's a look at a few:
- www.hboc.com: HBO & Co. will distribute WebMD to healthcare organizations and doctors throughout the nation. WebMD offers doctors an online library, insurance verification services and continuing education, to name a few.
- www.betterhealth.com: A joint project of Home Access Health Corporation and Better Health, the site will provide patients, primarily women, with counseling support and self-test kits.
- www.merck-medco.com: Will allow eligible health plan members access to their pharmacy benefit information and a suite of pharmacy benefit services 24 hours a day.
- www.drkoop.com: Koop's own site will help doctors, health systems and physician groups to create their own websites, linked with drkoop.com, a reference source for consumers and doctors.
- www.publicagenda.org: Designed specifically for health care reporters, this site allows unbiased, accessible information on public policy and public opinion.
- www.wellnessjunction.com: Provides professionals and consumers with wellness information and news. A new feature, Wellness Forum, allows physicians to sign up for chat rooms.
- Visit www.intel.com/e-health to view Intel's Internet Health Initiative website.