INTERNET IPO DELAYED . . . Internet healthcare company Medscape postponed its plans for an initial public offering last month after share prices for several Internet firms fell. The company's Web site gives doctors and other clinicians access to continually updated and custom-tailored medical information. As of June, about 210,000 physicians were signed up as Medscape users. Medscape also plans to launch a consumer health site with media powerhouse CBS Corp. The company said it will re-evaluate its IPO plans as the market changes.
. . . AS EYECARE PPM GOES PUBLIC. Chicago-based NovaMed Eyecare, a physician practice management company concentrating on laser surgery centers, last month announced it completed an initial public offering of 4 million shares at a price of $8 per share. Of the shares offered, 3 million are being sold by NovaMed and 1 million are being sold by stockholders.
NovaMed owns and operates 10 eye surgery and laser centers and two laser vision correction centers, and owns and manages 45 eye-care clinics across the country.
NovaMed's IPO comes at a bad time for public PPMs: Most investors have soured on PPMs and many one-time Wall Street darlings are scrambling to retune their stock and financial performance. Struggling Birmingham, Ala.-based MedPartners, for example, once the nation's largest PPM, is now getting out of practice management altogether.
MedPartners recently received approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court to sell off its 1,000 California physician practices.
ONLINE OUTCOMES. Data that allow medical organizations to compare risk-adjusted patient outcomes will soon be available free over the Internet.
Care Management Science, a Philadelphia-based provider of healthcare management services on the Web, will allow hospitals, physician groups, health systems and health plans to access benchmarking data on inpatient care-data it previously sold.
The company was created with grants from the University of Pennsylvania and its mandate is "to rationalize decisionmaking in the industry," says CEO David Brailer, M.D. He said the company wants to establish its risk assessment and outcome measurement methods as the industry standard.
Brailer says that in the past the information constituted a $2 million product line for the company, and he estimates that sales of similar products, which use state and Medicare data, take in about $200 million annually. To access the data, go to www.cmscience.com, register and then log on.
AETNA MERGER APPROVED. Aetna U.S. Healthcare recently completed its $1 billion acquisition of Prudential Health Care. Aetna is now the nation's largest health insurer with more than 21 million enrollees, or one in 11 insured Americans, including more than 18 million managed-care enrollees and 9 million HMO enrollees. Aetna's already massive network of 177,000 physicians will combine with Prudential's 140,000 physicians.
The mega-merger comes despite physician concerns that the new company would create a monopoly and force physicians to accept lower fees. The Justice Department gave the deal the go-ahead in June after Aetna agreed to shed some of its operations in the Houston and Dallas areas. The merger also was contingent on the approval of state attorneys general. With New Jersey's approval of the deal last month, Aetna now can begin to integrate Prudential into its operations.
TAKE YOUR PICK. Atlanta-based WebMD last month announced it is providing Internet packages to 35 healthcare systems, including Columbia Cornell Care in New York. In exchange, the systems agreed to enroll 42,000 physicians in WebMD and train them to use its services. DuPont's recent $220 million investment in WebMD was earmarked to provide 200,000 doctors with free WebMD subscriptions.
Meanwhile, the Web company backed by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, drkoop.com, last month announced partnerships with three major health systems that will give physicians the option to customize Web sites through drkoop.com.
Just ahead in the lengthening line, New York-based Medscape began customizing Web sites for doctors for free in April through a link on its own home page. The company says 2,000 physicians are using the service. And executives of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Physiciansite.com say they have received start-up funding to begin new operations this month. The company will offer a variety of services, such as continuing medical education, electronic data interchange and free Web-site development.
MORE ON Y2K. With a little help from HCFA, you may still have time to minimize potential Y2K computer-related billing disasters. The agency is sponsoring 50 free one-day and half-day conferences designed to help doctors, hospitals and clinics ensure uninterrupted Medicare and Medicaid claims processing after January 1, 2000.
Minneapolis-based Rx2000 Solutions Institute, a not-for-profit healthcare information consulting group, is organizing the seminars in cities across the United States and Puerto Rico. Gary Setterberg, Rx2000 senior vice president, says surveys show many providers are not Y2K compliant, and small hospitals, clinics and physicians offices could experience significant disruption in Medicare and Medicaid payments after Jan. 1.
The first-and simplest-test providers can perform, he says, is to submit a claim to their Medicare carrier with a post-2000 date and see what happens. The results will help providers anticipate where problems may be.