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Kaiser Web test targets techies

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Kaiser Permanente, Rockville, Md., one of the nation's largest health maintenance organizations, is testing a pilot Internet-based healthcare program with 1,000 employees of high-tech companies in northern California.

The program, which began late last year, offers some health services online as well as HMO information, services aimed at cutting office visits and phone calls and the accompanying cost to the company. It's scheduled to expand to three more areas of the U.S. later this year.

TARGETING 15 HIGH-TECH COMPANIES

In the test, 1,000 employees of 15 technology firms were issued personal identification numbers to access the members-only site. These technology-savvy testers were chosen in part because of their presumed Internet access, and because Kaiser assumed they'd be good at finding bugs in the beta system.

The beta site offers a broad range of information about different diseases and treatments. There are also discussion areas where members can interact with each other, and with doctors.

"This is not just a one-way Web site where people go in and get information. It's actively linked to the delivery systems at Kaiser Permanente and you can speak to doctors in the health plan," said Anna-Lisa Silvestre, business development manager for Kaiser's Interactive Technologies Group.

ASK THE NURSE

In addition to bulletin boards where the members can post questions and comments, the site just launched an Ask the Nurse section where members can ask a health question and receive a personal response from a Kaiser nurse.

Future plans include allowing users to do some healthcare transactions online, such as booking non-emergency appointments and refilling prescriptions.

Through 1997, the healthcare giant plans to roll out similar tests in Washington, the mid-Atlantic region, the Pacific Northwest and southern California.

The site is managed in-house, with help from Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, Calif., and uses Netscape software and services. It is supported by a half-dozen full-time employees, but that number is expected to double this year.

Contributing: Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance magazine.

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