INTERNET: Health Care Industry Must Integrate Web Technology
"There is no business that ... will be more affected by the new technology than health care," Don Tapscott, chair of the Alliance for Converging Technologies, told a group of senior health care executives this week. Speaking at a three-day Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) symposium, "Maximizing Results: Practical Business Solutions for the Next Decade," Tapscott, who authored "Paradigm Shift, The Digital Economy" and "The Blueprint for the Digital Economy," said that "Health care organizations need to change their business models in order to leverage the power of the Internet as digital health care becomes a reality." Calling the health care industry's current use of Internet-related technology "embarrassing," Brad Ferren, president for research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering, urged executives to utilize the Internet to facilitate better patient-physician communication. "The Internet won't replace doctors, but it will make relationships with them more effective," he stated. CSC Healthcare Group President Art Spiegel added that those who embrace new technologies will be able to reduce costs significantly and improve efficiency, noting, "The most promising approaches to using the Internet in health care take costs out of the system and let consumers interact with providers" (CSC release, 12/13).
Web Improves Emergency Care
A new strategic partnership between PersonalMD.com and HealthAxis.com enables PersonalMD.com members to purchase health insurance from a list of HealthAxis.com carrier partners, while HealthAxis.com members will be allowed to open a secure, confidential online medical file in which they can enter medical history and other information. The online record (which will contain EKGs, lab reports and living wills) and an accompanying emergency card could help "emergency physicians to make better- informed, timely diagnoses regarding patient care," according to officials. PersonalMD.com Vice President of Medical Affairs Thomas Booth explained that "[p]rior to PersonalMD.com offering consumer-based medical records, emergency department physicians either had to rely upon an incoming patient's memory during a very stressful time, conduct multiple tests and/or wait until the patient's primary physician was available for consultation." Chad Robins, HealthAxis.com director of business development, added, "PersonalMD.com is a great addition to our roster of strategic partners. The ability to obtain online medical records and emergency cards will provide a meaningful health benefit to our customers while giving PersonalMD.com members the opportunity to protect themselves and their families with quality, competitively priced health insurance" (PersonalMD.com release, 12/13).
Knowledge Is Power
A new health Web site created by Healthwise, Inc., and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota offers members access to software that will help them make wiser health care decisions and avoid becoming victims of medical errors. The site, BluePrint for Health, features Healthwise's Knowlegdebase software, which provides medical information on over 1,900 major subjects. "Information is the great equalizer. Even in the best hospitals and clinics some medical mistake can slip through," Healthwise CEO and President Don Kemper said. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bill Gold added, "Consumers are playing a greater role in managing their own health care options. It is our job to break through the clutter of information and provide information to consumers that will make them better partners with their physician and their health plan." The site, which can be accessed through www.bluecrossmn.com, also offers members the chance to set up personal web pages updated daily with health care news and online calendar reminders of health-related events (Healthwise release, 12/15).
Shutting Down Online Drug Stores
Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm (D) Wednesday moved to shut down 10 Internet sites selling unauthorized prescription drugs to Michigan residents. Charging the sites with violating the state's Consumer Protection Act, Granholm said her office has filed notices of intended action against each of the 10 online pharmacies, which must cease business with Michigan consumers within 10 days or face a lawsuit that could lead to $25,000 in fines for each violation. In a four-month investigation, the state Attorney General's office was able to make 21 online purchases of five drugs, including Viagra and the popular diet drug Xenical. "In all of these cases, a physical exam would be required," Granholm said, adding, "All these companies are interested in is the money." In addition to selling unprescribed drugs, the Web sites, based in several states, including Florida, Utah and Virginia, hiked up prices, with one company charging $200 for $16 worth of pills. "There are legitimate pharmacies online. [But] when a child can get a drug without ever seeing a doctor, or when a woman or man with a heart condition is given other controlled substances with no questions asked, we have a major problem," Granholm stated (Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, 12/16). She concluded, "[P]eople ... go online think[ing] these places are legitimate. ... You might as well just put the drugs on the shelves with the candy" (Heinlein, Detroit News, 12/16).