Steve’s Case for a Health Revolution

Perseverance is one quality Steve Case has in abundance. When almost everyone had given up on America Online, he plowed ahead, somehow managing to keep going.

steve.jpgIt took over a decade, but eventually America Online soared. He will need the same steadfastness and patience for his latest project, Revolution Health, which he started in July 2005.


Case, the former CEO of America Online and chairman of AOL Time Warner, launched Revolution LLC with $500 million of his own fortune, according to BusinessWeek. The Revolution Health Group is one of its projects. Revolution Living is the other. Since its launch, RHG has acquired six start-ups and invested in another (InterFit Health) to form the core of RevolutionHealth.com, launched Monday.

“It took a long time before people believed in AOL,” Case said in an interview. “I feel the same way about health care.” He did acknowledge that the current task was tougher, but added that the opportunity was larger.

No one can deny the fact that navigating the health care system, or simply finding relevant medical information can be a migraine-inducing exercise. A simple trip to the eye doctor can often result in a hernia-inducing paper trail. “There is a lot of frustration with the whole system on all sides,” Case says, and often “[the] consumer is on the fringes. We want to put them in charge.

“Most people when they look for health care or medical information, they go to a search engine, and are served up links,” says Case. Not an ideal scenario, especially if you as a consumer are searching for information relating to a particular ailment.

Case wants to offer an easy to use, well-organized health information portal populated with professional data from institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Harvard, with of course social networking built in.

The service also includes interesting medical tools, such as Symptom Checker. “I am a father of five and when one of the kids falls sick on Sunday morning, it’s straight to the emergency room because you just don’t know what’s wrong, and that’s quite frustrating,” he says.

There are some feedback mechanisms that can help patients make informed decisions. Visitors can rate their doctors and healthcare providers, helping share their experiences with others. “We want people to come here to stay healthy,” Case says.

Good point! Suffering from a bad case of lingering flu (thus explaining my prolonged absence from the blog) today seemed like a good time to figure out ways to quit smoking. At Revolution Health, it took less than five minutes to find the discussion forum where I should ideally be able to interact with others who have kicked the habit. The forum was devoid of messages, but I am quite likely to return.

Nevertheless, it also represents one of the many challenges facing Revolution Health. It faces competition from established players like WebMD. Then there is the little issue of company charging fees from customers. There are a growing number of start-ups who are chasing similar opportunities, by focusing on lucrative vertical opportunities. Some wonder if Revolution Health is trying to do too much?

Case explained that what RH is trying to do is what online brokerages did for personal finance. What’s the point of a personal portfolio if you can’t manage your stocks, mutual funds and other investment vehicles? And what good are they without solid research and data? “What we need is a simplistic approach,” he says. Everything neatly packaged – the kind of packaging that helped millions ease onto the Internet!

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