Remember Steve Case, the founder of AOL? He’s back and wants to again redefine the Internet by launching a new healthcare website— Case is wagering that consumers will willing pay almost $100 per year to subscribe to premium services such as digital medical record (DMR) storage, help with insurance claims, and telephone services designed to provide health coaching and doctor matching.

Case’s main competitor, WebMDU seems to be reacting to the new competition. Recently it revamped its site and converted many of its fee-based services into free services for its visitors. WebMD has created a new service on its Web site: storage and maintenance of health records, which it will offer to consumers for free. WebMD is profitable primarily because of its advertising revenue—tapping into the huge advertising budget of pharmaceutical companies—rather than making money from subscription fees paid by consumers using its Web site and services.

Case predicts will be profitable because of the growing push towards consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs). Dark Daily has noted before that people are becoming increasingly interested in their own healthcare, researching their conditions and physicians online and elsewhere. will entice people to try paid services by offering a free trial. Users who sign up for in the site’s first 90 days will get free telephone consulting and free digital record services for one year. That promotion is going on right now, so sign up for a free account and try it out if you’re intrigued!

It is questionable whether can become profitable in an age where people can easily access many Web-based services free-of-charge. The company may have to adjust its model in the long-term and rely more on advertising, as its competitors already do.

Clinical laboratories and pathology group practices are likely to benefit from all the promotion and consumer education that will accompany the launch of Steve Case will be spending liberally to attract consumer attention to his new e-business. He needs for consumers to find it easy to access healthcare information and services using the Internet. As more consumers grow comfortable going to the Web for these purposes, they will begin to look around for the Web sites of their physician and their laboratory. That is why enterprising laboratories may want to enhance their Web sites to provide highly personalized consumer information.
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