Health site will offer paid personal medical advice

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Planning to target users needing medical information, Mediconsult.com will begin offering online personal consulting with medical specialists this week.

At the new MediXperts area on Mediconsult's home page, users will pay $195 for each online consultation. After filling out a detailed questionnaire about their condition, patients are notified via e-mail within two to five days that their online consultation report is ready, which they can access on the Mediconsult site with a password.

"We aren't practicing medicine and that's very clear. What the physician sees is a textbook case. There is no doctor/patient relationship. . . . We are certainly pushing the envelop beyond the `Ask the Doctor' on the Internet today," said Debora Falk, Mediconsult.com VP-sales and marketing.

MULTIPLE REVENUE STREAMS

For Mediconsult.com, MediXperts is another revenue stream in its business model. The other sources are advertising sales and sponsorships, content licensing to other sites, consulting on Internet marketing, and transaction fees on books and products. It does not yet have any advertisers signed up for MediXpert, although it is targeting pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and other health-related organizations.

`SELF-RELIANCE' HEALTHCARE

Chris Charron, an analyst with Forrester Research, said, "I think it can fly because of the urgency of customers' interest at that point."

He also noted that drug companies, which traditionally have focused their marketing efforts on reaching doctors, may now be interested in reaching consumers directly, and the Internet provides them with an opportunity to do this.

"We're at a point where self-reliance is the buzzword in the health field," said Mr. Charron.

Mediconsult.com offers consulting on about 50 different conditions including AIDS, arthritis, and cancer. MediXperts' staff will be culled from specialists in each field. Currently about 25 specialists have signed on, with 100 expected.

Other new media companies are seeing the value of online medical information, as evidenced by the launches of several new health sites They include PHYS, a women's health site launched in August by CondeNet and Procter & Gamble Co.; Better Health & Medical, launched in September by iVillage; Thrive, put up in October by Time Inc. Health and Thrive; BabyCenter.com, launched today, and Healthy Ideas, launched in May by Prevention.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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