Alan Greene, M.D., believes physicians should set up their own Internet sites as a sword to slay two dragons -- a lack of time to talk to patients and a glut of unreliable health information on the Internet.
Greene considers it an unintended bonus that his 3-year-old site (ancient by Internet standards) was purchased May 10 for an undisclosed amount of stock by Adam.com, a San Francisco-based medical software company. On the same day, Adam.com premiered a consumer health information site featuring Greene.
The San Mateo, Calif., pediatrician says he's one of only 25 physicians he's heard of with an Internet site that includes items offered by commercial health information sites, such as in-depth articles grouped by disease or subject.
Greene says he works five hours a day, seven days a week, putting together his site, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.
"It's made my practice of medicine much richer," says Greene, referring to the link with patients around the world, not the stock from Adam.com.
Greene started www.drgreene.com, also known as Dr. Greene's HouseCalls, in 1996. As a result of managed-care pressures, he felt his patients had less time to talk to him. He saw the site as a place to post information to benefit them. Greene says he's careful not to give advice or diagnoses on the site.
He notices that before his patients enter his office, "they've already read what I've given on a topic. Then we can tailor much of the visit to their specific needs."
It isn't just Greene's patients in San Mateo who visit his site. That became apparent recently on a whale-watching trip to Maine, when Greene ran into a couple who told him his site taught them how to handle their 2-year-old's temper tantrums.
Despite the association with Adam.com, Greene says he has concerns about the validity of most healthcare information sites and wants to see physicians set up more sites.
"A lot of them are businesses that have physicians tacked on to give them credibility," Greene says. "In the long run, patients won't be comfortable."