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Steve’s Case for a Health Revolution

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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, 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!

24 Responses to “Steve’s Case for a Health Revolution”

  1. Agree, finding relevant medical info, especially on treatments, is very hard. That’s why I felt impelled to start a free site providing the latest info and not selling any pills, devices, etc. I based it on the huge amount of research I had to do on my own (advanced cancer) condition. Eventually I found the tools I needed for myself, but it requires a lot of work. I’m hoping that will help others — a smaller scale attack on health care information than Revolution, from an individual point of view.

  2. Revolution Health expects people to pay $129 a year for stuff they can get and do for free.

    They don’t pay their employees on time.

    Their employees don’t even get health insurance!

    They make every mistake written about in The Mythical Man Month.

    Sounds very revolutionary!

  3. Tiger_Force

    “Case is attempting to emulate the extreme lumpenproletariat common touch with his tall tale of emergency room visits. Preventative care is what mitigates the need for emergency room visits.”

    Hah! Exactly, preventative care is not exactly pushed by insurance companies. And here is Case, and his slew of hyper employees, pretending their site is original and revolutionary, when every single thing on it has been done before. (The only original thing, is airing internal company fighting on random blogs, and hiring so many people to SELL the site on the intarweb.)

    Basically, they are using it to sell insurance. It’s really sad that some people will buy into this farce.

    I’m glad to see that most people posting here have some common sense, except for the RH employees who only know buzzwords and are out of touch with the real world. Much like Case.

    I’m wondering if they’ll outsource all those “premium service” calls to India. Wouldn’t that be a riot!

  4. its pretty difficult to separate RH from Steve Case. This is because he is a bigger story than his website. This site will have served a purpose if it does something about the broken healthcare system in the US. Not the insured folks out there but more particularly the uninsured.
    Focus on preventative measures.
    Once ill help people get better themselves.
    Whats good for one is thereby good for all.
    … and there is more… just no time right now

  5. RH’s goal is much more than being just an online resource for health information. It will or does operate health clinics (in places like Walmart or retail pharmacies) that puts the power of healthcare in the consumers hands.

    Don’t think for a second that the goal of RH is just to be an online source for information. Its goals are much higher than that. I wish them well in their attempt.

  6. I don’t see the value of a portal-style site. It looks to me like RH is trying to offer easier access to broad information, when consumers really want deep information. Web 1.0 was about helping us put our hands on vast quantities of shallow data, much more quickly than we ever could before. Search engines have made that a snap.

    What’s needed now is not a single site like RH, but thousands of them, each with detailed information about a disease we’re searching on. Those sites are springing up organically, without a portal like Revolution Health to help them along.

  7. The Revolution employees who come on here to defend Revolution are interesting, if for no other reason than to enjoy their creative spelling and justification for the site (“we worked hard on it!”).

    While I’m sure you did, it kind of isn’t enough since it takes more than hard work to make it in this space. Look at all the failed startups in healthcare to understand how difficult the task is, and how completely unoriginal Revolution’s offering is. Their content? Others have it (WebMD has Cleveland Clinic, hospitals across the country have Mayo Clinic content, both are easy to license). You have a few healthcare professionals on staff? Fantastic. How many as a percentage of the entire staff? Where’s the link to your medical advisory board?

    I hope Revolution makes it, if for no other reason than because WebMD needs a strong competitor. But stop suggesting it’s something it isn’t.

  8. Like anything, I’ll give it a chance before I write it off.

    I’m sure that Steve knows what he’s doing with regards to building this business by hiring people who work in the industry. He doesn’t strike me as someone who is stupid. Sure, he’s got all that “baggage” from AOL, but he’s throwing a lot of cash at something that could potentially be good (or a colossal disaster, one of the two).

    If anything this will be a nice competitor to WebMD, which to me kinda sucks for reference material. RH snagged some good partners with Harvard, Cleveland Clinic and Mayo.

  9. A Revolution Employee

    Skeptic,(also posting as Tanjeel)

    You sound like a disgruntled ex-employee. The one who prowls the blogs and posts their vapid opinions. If I’m right, and I strongly suspect I am based on your posts on TechCrunch, what the hell do YOU care about Steve’s copious pocket? You took your share and left! To your point, you were well paid…are you telling me you left out of concern for Steve’s pocket? What a bloody humanitarian thing to do! And I don’t believe that for a moment either.

    Oh wait! I get it…I(or the other 300 people) should walk away from the oppurtunity of a career and a chance to help build something great because someone who left the company(of your own free will? doubtful) disgruntled thinks we’re stealing Steve Case’s money by working 12-13 hour days 6 or 7 days a week – missing our family obligations. And I’m supposed to feel remorse for what I get paid in return?

    You need to go to and search for these terms: “dilusional”,”crazy” or “insane”…try “idiot” for good measure.

  10. Strong opinions. I’m skeptical myself – there seems nothing fundamentally different about Case’s approach – why would this succeed where others have failed. Google has also been making noises for some about about health.

    The real challenge in Healthcare is on the back-end, not the interface. How do you make patient data easily portable, accessible and secure?

  11. Art Vandalay

    Wow! Steve Case has turned his prodigious talent toward health care…Hmm, after years of stuffing millions of mailboxes with junk mail CD’s, offering crappy dial-up service, and then conning a naive old media company into value destruction, Steve is going to revolutionize health care! Maybe he can find a dupe like Jerry Levin to sell this concept too, but I’m sticking with a good doctor or a hospital, not some silly 4th grade website (even WebMD is better)

  12. No kidding. People like you with “healthcare experience” are having hell of a time reaching into Steve’s pocket.

    Good for you he does not know any better and it is his money you are spending!

  13. A Revolution Health employee.

    “When I first heard about RH at a major pharmaceutical convention, my first thought was…what does Steve Case and his hired executives know about healthcare? Nada”

    Indeed…however Mr. Case WAS smart enough to hire PLENTY of us with years of healthcare experience. In my case, 25 years from a provider, to an administrator to healthcare IT exec.

    From the outside, it’s easy to assume that there’s no healthcare experience here and you’d be incorrect. Consider this: no one could build what we’ve built in the time we’ve built it without healthcare experience.

  14. youdothevoodoothatyoudosooowell

    Bud Fox:

    Case is attempting to emulate the extreme lumpenproletariat common touch with his tall tale of emergency room visits. Preventative care is what mitigates the need for emergency room visits.

    Mostly the uninsured, for routine diagnoses, hit the emergency room for what ails.

    Steve Case has boutique, on-call care…with house visits. Or if he or a family member needs a work-up, goes to some place like Pritikin or The Greenbrier…

  15. Want to change healthcare for real? Find companies, organizations and people who have already been trying to do just that for the past 10 or 20 years and give them your support. Don’t add yet one more “me-too” health website to the noise and call it something sensational because it actually prides itself on its UNreliable knowledge.

  16. I would think after having 5 kids and being as smart as Case supposedly is, he wouldn’t have to rush his kids to the emergency room every time they are sick. No wonder the emergency rooms are all full.

  17. [M]ichelle

    When I first heard about RH at a major pharmaceutical convention, my first thought was…what does Steve Case and his hired executives know about healthcare? Nada

    But now that I think about it…does it really matter if he’s an expert in healthcare? The man is doing something or trying to do something to change healthcare for the better.

    Even if RH may be lacking some crucial things or may not be up to par as some other already existing sites, he deserves applaud for attempting to make a difference

    Through trial and error…is when a great product is developed


  18. How can you change millions of people’s behavior through a WebMD-wannabe website? Are people suddenly going to stop going to search engines to start their health search? Does Revolution’s content offer something WebMD didn’t already offer? Outside of the social networking stuff, I’m not seeing the value proposition or rationale for these valuations (outside of the fact that it’s Steve Case, who has zero healthcare background).

  19. Hi, Om –

    I’m an interaction designer at Revolution Health and a long time subscriber to this site (and now, WWD). Thanks for taking time to write about us today, hopefully that asthma forum will start to return helpful conversations sooner rather than later.

    Not to plug our services, but if you don’t mind, I would like to point out, as a fan of your Web Worker Daily site, that I personally hope our Insurance Comparison Tool could potentially prove very valuable to your readers at WWD (contractors and the self-employed, working from home, etc), as it’s a very easy to use tool to help find health plans for themselves and their families.

    I would also like to point out for additional clarity, because I’ve seen some confusion about this lately, that our paid services are mostly telephone based, and not part of the website. The large majority of the website should be free forever — and hopefully the telephone paid services will prove valuable enough for people to pay for after 2007.

    Again, thanks for the write up. Nice to see some of the sites I read regularly posting about us after working 10 months (myself) on the project. If you or your readers have any constructive feedback, I’d be happy to hear it, and I’ll see about answering any questions that I can.


  20. I had over/under on RH shutting down at 24 months but with the 50% increase in TWX over the past four months essentially paying for the $500M that Case put in…I’m adjusting that number to 32 months.