Associations launch health info site

Seven professional groups join forces

Concerned about variances in the quality and accuracy of health care information available on the Internet, a group of seven professional associations representing two-thirds of the nation’s physicians has launched its own Internet site.

The associations have formed a new company, Medem, which stands for "medical empowerment," and will make its Web site, medem.com available later this year.

The medem.com Web site will include comprehensive health care information written or credentialed by representatives of participating organizations, as well as a mechanism through which physician partners can set up their own sites that will be linked to the Medem.com site.

The site is the result of a two-year venture by these groups:

• American Academy of Ophthalmology;

• American Academy of Pediatrics;

• American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology;

• American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists;

• American Medical Association (AMA);

• American Psychiatric Association;

• American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

Medem is wholly owned and controlled by the societies. Each organization put up funds to create the site and has appointed members to the Medem board of directors.

Medem officials cite several reasons why they chose to set up a health care Web site. Those reasons include variances in the quality and accuracy of health care information, growing concerns about health care information security, disenfranchised physicians whose patients are receiving information of questionable quality, and "a gold rush of entrepreneurs looking to make fast money in e-health."

"Today, millions of Americans are turning to the Internet to find answers to their health and medical questions. The problem is there are thousands of sites claiming to provide health information. It’s difficult to know what you can believe or what you can trust. With the development of this unique, new Web site, the same kind of credible health information you expect from your own physician is just a click away," says William Mahood, MD, AMA trustee.

He points out that the Web site will never be a substitute for an in-person visit to physicians when needed. "But between visits to the doctor’s office, this new site will allow patients and their doctors to strengthen their relationship by assuring that patients get the best, most up-to-date, and most credible information from their own doctors."

Thousands have signed up

Thousands of physicians have already registered for customized Web services, according to a Medem spokesman. Members of the physician organizations had the opportunity to sign up for Web sites in late 1999 and responded enthusiastically. In the first month it was offered, more than 4,000 physicians attending their professional organizations’ meetings signed up for Medem Web page assistance.

To sign up for the service or for more information, physicians may contact their specialty society or contact Medem directly at partners@ medem.com. Physicians who want to participate may have their fee covered by a sponsoring company or may pay $70 a month for the service. Web pages will be available that can be tailored to individual physicians or physicians in group practices.

Medem has set up a template that physician partners can use to create their own customized Internet sites.

The template includes these features:

• physician information including photographs and curricula vitae;

• practice hours, parking information, maps, and information on the health plans the practice accepts;

• physician specific clinical content, such as preoperative and postoperative instructions and patient education information;

• Medem-generated clinical content and applications;

• links to other sites, including the Medem Web sites and pages of the participating professional organizations;

• a secure system for messages between physicians, their patients, and referral sources.

Medem is made up of three segments: an independent editorial operation run by representatives of the participating organizations, a separate business unit, and a health care charitable foundation.

The launch of the fully complete Web site will be later this year, but comprehensive information on Medem and its founding organizations are included on the Web site at http://www.medem. com.