Reuters/CNET.com Examines Efforts of Internet, Technology Companies To Fix Health Care Industry
Reuters/CNET.com last weekend examined the slow pace at which the Internet is "making inexorable inroads" in the health care industry. Although several companies in the late 1990s sought to revolutionize the $1.5 trillion industry, Reuters/CNET.com reports that such "grandiose" plans have yet to prove profitable. For example, Healtheon, launched in 1999 by Netscape founder Jim Clark, was touted as the company that would "fix the U.S. health care industry." Instead, the company, now WebMD, has yet to post a profit, and analysts remain uncertain if it will be successful as an Internet "go-between" for providers, patients and insurance companies. Despite several setbacks, including concerns about patient confidentiality, several experts believe that the Internet will bring significant benefits to the industry, although it will happen slowly. Sam Karp, chief information officer of the California HealthCare Foundation, predicts that it will be "at least five years" before the industry sees all of the benefits of the Internet. He said, "We think it has extraordinary potential and the fact that we're through this hype of the dot-com world, and the collapse of it, doesn't mean that many of the benefits that the Internet offers to health care won't be achieved. It's just going to take a lot longer to achieve them." Reuters/CNET.com reports that while some companies are attempting to profit by offering online health information, others are developing "e-health" technology -- devices used to link physicians and patients through the wireless Web or Internet. For example, Medtronic has developed a patient monitoring system that allows patients with implanted cardiac devices to transmit information to their physicians over the Internet. Still, it remains uncertain which companies will succeed financially by providing health care technology and Internet services (Reuters/CNET.com, 3/31).
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