Making the Case for Online Health Care

Steve Case proposes to create a revolution in American health care by using the Internet to empower consumers.

Impassioned by his experience with his brother Daniels battle with brain cancer, Steve Case is taking a two-pronged approach to working to improve the American health care system.

This week, Steve Case presented his health care strategy to a group of leading industry executives and financiers at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

The event had special significance, given that Cases brother, Daniel, had been the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and had helped to conceive of the conference a few decades ago. Daniel Case eventually succumbed to the cancer in 2002.

Steve and Daniel initially founded a nonprofit dedicated to promoting research into brain cancer therapeutics, which they believed were sorely lacking.

After substantial success on that front, Steve moved to found the Revolution Health Group. This companys stated goal is to apply the transparency into purchasing processes that the Internet allows to revolutionizing the consumer experience of health care.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Steve Case and the Revolution Health Group.

In his speech to the JP Morgan audience, Case argued that the Internet has transformed a wide range of consumer decisions, from choosing a mortgage to buying a used car to investing in stocks. Still, he noted of the health care system, "There is one major industry that remains immune to change and that industry happens to be the largest in America."

He went on to note that Americans now have "more power and more choice for everything in the marketplace except what we value most." That is, namely, health.

Case provided one vivid example of the current limitations for health care consumers. "How does someone find a doctor?" he asked. "They ask a friend and simply hope."

But finding the best possible physician for a particular procedure is crucial to a good patient outcome. Hernia surgery, for example, has a 1 in 10 chance of recurrence among patients of the worst surgeons performing this procedure, while the very best have only a 1 in 500 need to perform this surgery again on a patient. That means the chance of recurring hernia varies by 50 depending on physician expertise.

Without access to a doctors track record, patients have little chance of accurately assessing their physicians and their own potential health outcomes.

Case also addressed the lack of health care insurance coverage, one of the most problematic health care issues for health care providers and hospitals. He noted that individuals who purchase their own health care get the worst possible deal.

"Revolution Health is committed to getting more Americans health care coverage," Case said, suggesting that the group may help individuals garner bargaining power to lower the exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for the uninsured.

As a first step, Revolution Health will be launching a consumer health care portal later this year. It will address a variety of consumer needs, including scheduling physician appointments, researching health care needs, and obtaining online health care advice and referrals. "Choices arent real choices unless theyre made with the right tools and the right support," Case said.

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