Hopkins to do reports for doctors' Web site Updates: Johns Hopkins and Atlanta firm Medcast will send medical information to doctors' computers.

September 29, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Johns Hopkins Medicine announced a deal yesterday with an Atlanta start-up company set to beam information to doctors' desktops -- medical information, but also news, sports, investments, golf and wine.

The company, called Medcast, began promoting itself yesterday with full-page ads in the New York Times and Wall Street #F Journal. It is still in a testing phase, but already has more than 50 salespeople visiting doctors in 30 cities, and plans full operation by January.

Hopkins' deal with Medcast is similar to one it made two years ago with Inteli-Health, a company that provides consumer health information on the World Wide Web. Hopkins provides content and hopes to gain a share of the profit.

"Our primary goal is to reach the world in a way we feel will give us enormous firepower," said Scott L. Sherman, an assistant dean of the medical school who oversees efforts to market Hopkins' information in new ways.

Medcast and InteliHealth offer Hopkins "visibility," Sherman said, and "the potential for patient referrals. A lot of patients come to us from around the country and around the world, and this may be another feeder."

While there are other Web services aimed at physicians, Medcast feels it has a unique market niche, said Alan N. Greenberg, a former Esquire publisher who is chairman and chief executive officer of Greenberg News Networks Inc., the parent of Medcast.

"We don't compete with the Web at all," Greenberg said. "Ninety percent of cardiologists don't have an Internet connection in their office."

Medcast is "a holistic offering to the physician," Greenberg said -- offering computer hardware, an easy-to-use system, an Internet connection, installation and training.

Medcast's brochure tells doctors they can use the service immediately, "even if you don't know -- or don't want to know -- how to use a computer."

Sherman said that instead of a vast sea of information where a doctor can "cruise," Medcast offers a quick summary of fields in which the doctor has indicated an interest, with more detail available with the click of a computer mouse.

This business model persuaded Hopkins to sign on, he said. "We're always approached by companies such as these. We found their method of presentation compelling, and this is the horse we decided to bet on."

A service called Physicians' Online has been offering a somewhat similar service since 1994, and is not profitable, said Dr. Beth Nash, its medical director. The service, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., is free to doctors, getting its revenue from sponsors, mostly pharmaceutical companies.

She said 200,000 doctors have installed Physicians' Online software this year, and 50,000 a month visit the Web site.

Over time, Nash said, the Physicians' Online business model has evolved from focusing on information to providing "tools to assist physicians in the business of medicine," ranging from billing software to Web sites to ordering drug samples online.

Greenberg said Medcast's revenue will come mostly from sponsors, such as drug companies, but a "significant" amount ++ also will come from physicians' fees. Doctors will pay $25 a month if Medcast provides the computer, $10 a month if they already have one.

Medcast, which has 140 employees, has raised $22 million in venture capital, Greenberg said.

"That is a lot of money," Nash said, "but what they're trying to do takes a lot of money."

Greenberg declined to give projections for when Medcast might be profitable, or to discuss the terms of its deal with Hopkins.

Sherman said Medcast would be paying for two new writers at Hopkins to develop content. Also, he said, Medcast would pay Hopkins doctors for providing material.

He said InteliHealth is paying more than $100,000 a year to Hopkins faculty doctors for their work and "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in royalties to Hopkins.

That is part of a Hopkins effort to sell its content to doctors and patients through books, newsletters and other vehicles. Altogether, Sherman said, the information is producing about $1 million in annual revenue for Hopkins.

Greenberg said that he believes the Medcast model can be applied to other fields, and that he has developed prototypes such as Travelcast and Agricast. However, he said, his company will go international with Medcast before moving to new areas. "Hopkins is interested in creating a worldwide brand," he said, "and so are we."

Pub Date: 9/29/98

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