Reuters, AMA join for online service

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Reuters Health Information Services and the American Medical Association formed a joint venture to develop a Web service featuring medical and health content available in pilot form this March. The service, tentatively titled Intermedica, will combine content from Reuters and AMA's different news outlets and target physicians at launch. Advertising is planned, though rates are not yet available. "Initially the advertising focus will be on pharmaceuticals, but I wouldn't rule out other advertisers given this demographic," said Dr. Anthony Jones, director-online services, Reuters Health Information Services.

The service's revenue model assumes both advertisers and a subscription format; subscription rates have not yet been set. Also planned: alliances or possible subscription packages for medical schools or colleges and "continuing education" courses for doctors.

This isn't the first time in recent years that a major media company has attempted to reach the medical market outside of medical journals and other "academic" formats. In 1992, Whittle Communications launched Medical News Network as a televised information service broadcast to doctors' offices. "I think Whittle was on the right track but he may have put the service together too soon for his own good," Dr. Jones said. "The idea was good but the technology wasn't there yet."

If the Reuters/AMA service eventually does target mainstream consumers, albeit those who don't shy from news packaged for doctors, it will face competition from other health and fitness lifestyle services slated to launch in 1996.

AT&T Personal Online Services plans to launch during the second quarter of 1996 with a content partnership from Minneapolis-based IVI Publishing, which publishes HEALTHNEWS, sister title of The New England Journal of Medicine, and other medical titles. The New York Times Syndicate launched Your Health Daily in late November, a free service that includes content from medical wires in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, discussion forums, and pay-per-article downloads for researchers or interested consumers.

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