Steve Case’s Healthcare “Revolution”

He’s been developing it on the kinda-sorta QT for a couple of years now….. Steve Case, formerly of AOL and looking for something to do with his millions has decided to join the foray into healthcare, but with a new twist. He’s taking it to the public sector to create profit centers based on advertising and projects that range from e-health, to wellness centers to spa resorts in Arizona.

It’s HUGE! It’s going to make him a ton of money. And it may be YOUR money.

And don’t forget what I always say, “Health care is not about health or care. It’s about sickness and money.” So what else is new?

What’s new is his approach. I actually first heard about Case’s Revolution in the summer of 2005 and even invited Mr. Case to speak at a conference I was working on with a technology group. We hoped he would speak about how technology was reforming healthcare — but, alas — either we were too small and unimportant, or he was too busy. Hmmmm….

Here are some of the things Case is offering through the online version of Revolution:

  • A website that is supposed to beat all other websites for those who want to research their health and medical challenges online
  • The ability to record all your personal health records online for retrieval when you need them
  • The ability to have someone help you wade through the mess of medical bills and insurance payments
  • The ability to find a doctor or other provider to help you
  • The ability to critique the medical care you have received

In addition, he plans to:

  • Set up bricks and mortar “branded” health centers called “RediClinic” — meaning — the Starbucks of healthcare
  • Invite us to enjoy his health spas to become healthier
  • Manage our health and medical records, including figuring out how doctors can easily add to them — this is supposed to be a way to “manage our lives online”
  • plus a variety of other ideas — the sky is the limit!

As your friendly patient advocate, I have a few kudos and a couple of concerns about this Revolution which, you should also be aware, is the new darling of a few other well-known folks including Colin Powell and Carly Fiorina.

Kudos:

Our health care system cannot be fixed without some real out-of-the-box thinking — and this may be a good start. It may not be an ideal system, but it most definitely shakes up the status quo.

Case has the money, chutzpah and name recognition to be able to shake up more than a few of the folks (mostly insurance company heads) who have continued to collect their profits while refusing to budge from our current, broken system.

The more we talk about the needs of patients the more chance we can get to a better place for patients.

There are some good seeds of ideas here, and they are profitable, too. As much as I dog on healthcare and profitability, I recognize that it is probably a necessary evil to make the system work best for providers and patients. The balance of needs among the players has to work. Or — as my former boss, Eric Mower, used to say, “To be truly successful, everyone must benefit.”

Some criticism:

The website doesn’t have anything new on it at all. Every single aspect I can find is replicated elsewhere (most specifically WebMD and in some cases, my own DiagKNOWsis.org site). They claim to have info about 1,500 conditions and diseases — well, OK — those are easily found elsewhere. What about those conditions and diseases that are harder to find information about? There are blogs. So what? There are lots of blogs in other places. Like this one! All one needs to do is a quick google search and voila — there they all are. They want you to rate your doctors and your care. There are already a handful of sites that let you do that, and let others access the info to help them.

If the website is an example of his out-of-the-box thinking then…. <<yawn>>….. ho hum.

And my concerns, which more than balance out the comments above:

The very profit question I mentioned earlier, and the way Case is choosing to profit, are my biggest concerns. It’s not that I don’t think he should profit, it’s that I vehemently disagree with some of the ways he plans to do so.

For example: Case’s primary income, he states, will be from advertising. According to the New York Times, among the primary advertisers will be drug companies, although Case states they will work to “avoid any perception that a drug manufacturer, for example, might influence the information.”

Excuse me? “avoid any perception?” That’s not the same as saying “they WON’T influence the information,” is it? In fact, I would suggest that the minute revenues from any advertiser become substantial, they can’t HELP but influence the info, I don’t care WHAT the perception is! Case’s business model won’t be any different from the others out there that accept advertising, including WebMD, but PUH-LEEZE don’t make us patients out to be stupid! We know the differences between perceptions and realities. We may not be particularly discerning at times, but we do know the difference!

Another concern: despite the fact that Case told the New York Times his services would be free to its users, that is NOT what Revolution told me! In fact, I was invited to join Revolution Health last January — free for one year — and they would charge my credit card ($100 if memory serves me) next January. So unless they’ve changed their minds, there are a number of services, at least, that Revolution intends to charge for.

Again — it’s not that I don’t think they should charge! I just think bait and switch is a lousy approach.

Finally — I have very key and real concerns about privacy. I don’t want my personal information housed on servers that can be hacked any more than I want my credit cards listed on servers that can be hacked. You won’t find me using online Personal Health Records (systems for maintaining my health and medical information) anytime soon, anymore than I would use a financial manager online to record my credit card numbers or social security numbers.

If you aren’t concerned about the security of keeping these records online, you should be. You need to know that they can be shared with potential employers, any company you want to get any kind of personal insurance from (health or life) — any of a number of people who can use that information to make decisions about you.

So that’s my thinking today about Steve Case’s Revolution. I will watch it with cautious optimism. He gets big points for giving it a try, and few points for openness and honesty.

But it’s a start. Don’t forget: “Health care is not about health or care. It’s about sickness and money.”

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

[ See update to this post: http://epablog.wordpress.com/2007/04/20/cases-revolution-raises-privacy-questions/ ]

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