The American Medical Association may be considering getting deeper into the Internet's consumer information race.
Such a play would represent organized medicine's attempt to take the lead in medical information being disseminated through cyberspace. This information is largely controlled by business entrepreneurs and media companies.
Given the large amounts of money being dumped into such ventures, the move could give the Chicago-based AMA a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm, particularly if a new medical Internet company is publicly traded.
Randolph Smoak, M.D., chairman of the AMA board of trustees, said the AMA has "entertained that sort of thing periodically. The Internet is something that we always have an interest in, as a natural extension of our print material." The AMA already has consumer health information on its Web site, at www.ama-assn.org, but the overall site is targeted primarily to physicians.
Smoak said the AMA's board of trustees has not formally discussed the possibility of a new consumer-oriented medical Web site.
If the AMA doesn't move quickly, it may lag even more behind in the Internet's medical information marketplace.
Last week, for example, drkoop.com announced a four-year, $89 million strategic alliance with America Online, greatly expanding audience access for the health information company founded by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
George Lundberg, M.D., former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, edits Medscape, another rapidly growing medical information site. The AMA fired Lundberg last year in a widely publicized dispute over editorial content.
Yet another emerging player is thehealthnetwork.com, which will roll out July 19 as a multimedia project between Fox Entertainment Group and newly acquired America's Health Network.
Medical sites are big money. Drkoop.com's recent initial public offering raised $8.4 million.
The AMA reported a $5.4 million loss on $240 million in operating revenues for 1998.