Crossroads

At the intersection of technology, finance and the Pacific Rim.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Below excerpts are from the NY Times on using the Web for health care. I just signed up for the service to give it a test drive.

The Web is still mainly a vast trove of generalized health information. The ideal, health experts say, would be to combine personal data with health information to deliver tailored health plans for individuals. That is what Mr. Bosworth and his San Francisco-based company, Keas(pronounced KEE-ahs) Inc., mean to do.

Using the Keas system, for example, a person with Type 2 diabetes might receive reminders, advice on diet and exercise, questions and prompts presented on the Web site or delivered by e-mail or text messages — all personalized for the person’s age, gender, weight and other health conditions.

So how does it work?

“The goal is not just health care information, but knowledge about what that means and what action to take,” said Dr. John D. Halamka, chief information officer at the Harvard Medical School, and a member of a federal advisory group on electronic health records. “And that is what Keas, and others in different ways, are really starting to think through.”

Other initial partners of Keas are impressed with its technology. Healthwise, a nonprofit supplier of online health information, has created 15 care plans for Keas so far, including ones on high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, weight management and stress management.

Dr. Alan R. Greene, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has two children’s care plans on Keas, for ear infections and asthma, and is working on others. Dr. Greene has done projects with WebMD and Yahoo in the past. “But this little start-up has an extremely powerful tool, both personalized and interactive,” he said.

And how will they make money?

Initially, the care plans will be free, but eventually Keas will include subscriptions for plans, probably at a few dollars a month. Keas will take a slice, and pass the rest on to the plan creator — the model used by the Apple’s iPhone applications store.

“We’re still learning, so we’re in no rush to charge,” Mr. Bosworth said. “But the idea is that people will get paid for doing things that are really engaging and useful.”

In the long term, Mr. Bosworth hopes Keas will evolve into a marketplace, where health experts are the sellers, and consumers who want the best personalized advice are the buyers. “I think that’s a pretty big idea,” he said. “If it works, it helps drive consumerism into health care.”

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