An Atlanta-based Internet healthcare services company said last week it has contracted with 43 healthcare systems for a package of medical communications, information databases and professional services delivered through the World Wide Web.
The multiple-year agreements will net WebMD nearly 50,000 physician subscriptions for its on-line services. The $30 monthly fee per physician will be drawn from a $330 million subsidy instituted in May by Microsoft Corp. and DuPont, said Jeffrey Arnold, WebMD's chairman and chief executive officer.
In return for the gratis service package, the healthcare systems agreed to pick up the cost of and responsibility for training physicians to use the Internet portal in their practices, Arnold said. The systems also agreed to a long-term commitment of three years or more, he said.
The signings and subsidies are part of WebMD's articulated strategy to penetrate the healthcare industry more quickly than a host of competitors, establishing the company as a provider of Internet services aimed at making physician practices more efficient.
Health systems add hundreds or thousands of physicians at one time and are the logical focus for the electronic integration of medical data and services. Subsidized subscriptions eliminate the initial barrier of cost for physicians.
Health systems signed up include the physician organization of Cleveland Clinic, Columbia-Cornell Care in New York, Northside Hospitals in Atlanta and OhioHealth Group, an eight-hospital system in Columbus.
Although the basic fee is covered as physicians from those organizations enroll, WebMD has an opportunity to market other services that cost extra, such as access to medical dictation and transcription, Arnold said.
WebMD announced in May it was being acquired by Healtheon Corp., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based healthcare Internet technology company.