Our health care system could probably use a revolution. In that light, the name of America Online co-founder Steve Case's new start-up, Revolution Health, is particularly apt. The company is launching a Web site that will let consumers use social-networking-style features while researching health issues.
Social networking sites like News Corp.'s
Its web site isn't Revolution's only move to challenge the status quo. According to CNET, the company has invested tens of millions of dollars in RediClinic, which has set up quick health clinics in Wal-Mart
Some doctors may not be too crazy about quick clinics showing up in retail stores (they claim that nothing can take the place of seeing your doctor), but let's face it -- these clinics are addressing some very real consumer frustrations, such as the high price of health care, and the difficulties involved in scheduling appointments for routine ailments. (Ever had a cold or flu, and been told it'll be a couple weeks before you can see your doctor?) Furthermore, they offer ways for consumers to get routine vaccinations and such during hours that are more convenient for them than doctors' office hours generally are.
Frankly, the health care industry could use some disruptive influences. Given baby boomers' increasing interest in health views, and many consumers' desire for friendlier, more convenient health care, Revolution Health could have a good shot at success. (That said, a Wall Street Journal article pointed out that the long-established WebMD site, with many similar offerings, is a formidable rival for the new venture.)
Whether Case's Revolution turns out to be a shot heard around the world, it should be interesting to watch as more innovative, Internet-driven options arise to give consumers more information and greater power over their own health care.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.