AOL Co-founder Launches Health Site

Revolution Health Group's planned services are part of a trend toward putting patients' health information online.

Stepping into an already crowded field of online health information, AOL co-founder Steve Case has launched a Web site designed to help patients assess doctors, solve insurance problems and find medical information.

On Jan. 23, Cases Revolution Health Group issued a news release announcing that it was "working to build the online destination where you can take action to improve your health or your familys health."

The same day, competitor WebMD issued its own news release describing similar, expanded offerings.

Case had originally announced his goal of launching a health care portal a year ago at a health care investors conference.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the new health care portal from AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Case has enlisted other famous names as co-founders, most of whom have had their leadership questioned in the press: former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, and former Fannie Mae CEO Frank Raines. Case has said repeatedly that his motivation for launching the site is personal, inspired by his brothers struggle to get information after being diagnosed with a brain tumor as well as by the more-day-today issues of keeping his five children healthy.

A slew of companies are offering online health services under a variety of business models. Like most companies, Revolution Health plans to charge patients who sign up for services, but it is waiving membership fees for 2007. It will offer "personalized" services to help members work out insurance problems, track medical expenses, and link up communities of patients and loved ones.

Other online efforts offer services without charging patients. Medem allows patients to create an "iHealthRecord" for free, then charges physicians who use the service to manage physician-patient relationships. Phreesia provides a more limited service for free, but allows drug companies to send targeted information to patients.

Different consortia of the nations health plans and employers are separately launching efforts to provide patients health information online for free, along with tools that use that information to remind patients to schedule doctor appointments or stick to a new health regime. Companies like provide specialized search services for health information.

Privacy advocates worry about the burgeoning growth of online sites that gather health information from patients themselves or from their employers, saying that policies are not yet in place to prevent information from being misused. Physicians groups are also nervous about efforts to post information ranking hospital and physician quality.

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