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HEATH CARE–Web Site Collects and Distributes Health Information

Health Care: Incoming Data Used for Marketing Efforts

CARLSBAD , Carlsbad-based Internet health care company iMetrikus Inc. is launching a second Web site aimed at people with chronic diseases and their health care providers.

The site, MyHealthChannel.com will be launched Feb. 22. It encourages patients and others to create a personal health care journal and keep track of medications and doctor’s visits, the company said.

The site allows consumers to get customized information on health care providers, new treatments and medical equipment for free.

Chat rooms are also planned.

All information provided by patients is treated with absolute confidentiality, said Joseph A. Condurso III, executive vice president and chief operating officer of iMetrikus.

“Patients hold the key,” Condurso said.

Patients register on the Web site via a password and an E-mail address of their choice, traceable or not. And iMetrikus boasts that while its seven-layer security system keeps hackers away, the firm won’t track visitors’ identities.

However, visitors’ information will be critical for iMetrikus’ success.

The more visitors return to iMetrikus’ site, the more information iMetrikus will be able to collect for distribution to third parties.

To provide an incentive for consumers to give out sensitive information, iMetrikus in turn, provides them with information to fit their needs, iMetrikus said.

Information is a hot commodity these days, said T. Soma Somasundaram, associate professor at USD School of Business.

Somasundaram said iMetrikus’ business model is increasingly being adopted by E-health care companies.

Patients’ information, such as their medication and therapeutic needs, is critical marketing data for many firms, he said.

It allows drug makers to establish trends on people’s prescription usage, health care needs, and preferences, he said.

Others, such as publishers of health care newsletters, can use the data to identify hot topics that interest readers, he said.

The information gives firms the necessary tools to target specific consumers more effectively.

One of iMetrikus’ planned strategies is to establish business-to-business relationships with online drug companies, allowing them to advertise their products directly to consumers who fit their profile.

“Our business partners will bring up a banner to advertise when patients go on the site,” said Claude Hooten, vice president of iMetrikus’ TherametricsChannel.com, iMetrikus’ third Web site to be launched soon.

TherametricsChannel.com will allow health care affiliates to form alliances and buy data, iMetrikus said.

Hooten emphasized, however, that the information consumers will have access to is not limited to iMetrikus’ strategic business partners, but will span across the World Wide Web.

Consumers will be able to readily identify ads and iMetrikus’ business partners, added Condurso.

Some doctors worry whether the private information on the site can be adequately protected.

“I don’t think the system is safe at all,” said Dr. Kenneth Selzer, president of the physician network Integrated Neurosciences Consortium Inc. in La Jolla.

Selzer, a Harvard Business School graduate who has been following the rising trend of Internet E-health commerce, said the federal government has yet to come up with a solution on Internet privacy. He added many start-up firms underestimate the obstacles they have to climb to prove their Internet site is safe.

Officials at iMetrikus said they had cleared that hurdle, but other challenges remain.

Its first site, PhysicianChannel.com launched in August 1999, has yet to take off.

The site was originally intended for doctors to log and record patients’ medical records, but the challenge to get doctors to use the Internet service was too great.

IMetrikus then shifted its focus to tracking patients’ medical history in networks of clinics.

Last November, the company established a beta site in a Southern California clinic, tracking the medical history, treatment programs, and results of HIV patients.

The testing is still ongoing, said Darrell Atkin, iMetrikus’ vice president of marketing.

Selzer said iMetrikus isn’t the only health care Internet firm facing major hurdles.

“A lot of people are trying to do this (get doctors to use the Internet for recording medical records and other data),” he said. “In general, if it creates more work for the physicians, they don’t do it.”

Many doctors don’t want to put patients’ medical records online because it means giving up control, he added.

For now, iMetrikus is focusing its attention on MyHealthChannel.com, said Condurso.

Atkin said among iMetrikus’ rivals are Internet-based health care companies Hillsboro, Ore.-based Medicalogic Inc., Columbia, S.C.-based HealthMagic Inc. and Bernardsville, N.J.-based Protocol Driven Healthcare Inc.

Last February, Condurso and Dr. Peter Thompson, president and CEO of iMetrikus, both former executives from Chiron Corp.’s Informatics subsidiary, bought the Chiron unit and renamed it iMetrikus.

Emeryville-based Chiron retains less than 20 percent of iMetrikus ownership, Condurso said.

Jae A. Evans, chief technical officer at iMetrikus, and Robert Duncan, chief financial officer at iMetrikus also help find iMetrikus.

Condurso declined to offer financial details, but said iMetrikus has enough money to support 32 employees.

He anticipated the firm will double its number of total employees by the end of 2000.

The firm has no plans to go public at this time, he said.


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