Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors
Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors


About Team Role Theory

History & Research

Reliability & Validity

Dr. Meredith Belbin

Behavior vs. Personality



Buy Direct

by Molly Tschida

The lure of the Internet is its ability to offer consumers direct access to information, goods and services.

Several new e-health companies hope to capitalize on that appeal by offering consumers online healthcare purchasing power. Vivius and HealtheCare, both based in Minneapolis, and Portland, Ore.-based MyHealthBank are poised to bring online defined contribution plans to consumers in the next few months.

The companies are stacked with veteran managed care and technology executives and are backed by substantial venture capital.

Although virtually no employer offers defined contribution healthcare plans, the new companies believe the Internet has the power to finally speed the concept, in which employers give employees a fixed amount of money that they use to buy insurance and pay providers directly.

Providers will have the opportunity to set their own rates and market themselves directly to patients. As consumers become more selective and cost-conse to shop for physicians and will be able to view provider-specific cost, quality and patient satisfaction information. HealtheCare has partnered with an e-health company that will read claim streams, lab results and patient histories to generate quality reports on participating providers.

MyHealthBank, which announced its arrival last month by securing $3 million in its first round of financing, allows employees to supplement their employers' fixed contribution with contributions of their own.

Dave Sanders, M.D., MyHealthBank founder and CEO, says physicians will have an opportunity to market themselves more effectively than in the past. An internist who has an interest in treating low back pain, for example, could market himself just that way.

"What doctors want is a direct relationship with their patient," he says. "When the patient becomes the payer, you become highly incentivized to serve the consumer."

Vivius, which launched its site last month after securing $11.5 micians in its network July 1 and will launch a test pilot in Kansas City, Mo., in September. Vivius hopes to enroll 100,000 consumers in 2001.

Signing up a large number of providers is crucial to the success of all three companies, as their revenue comes from taking a portion of payments to providers. All three say they have had discussions with a number of employers.

John Erb, vice president with the insurance brokerage and consulting firm Arthur J. Gallagher in Boca Raton, Fla., says a number of his clients are thinking about defined contribution, but it is unlikely any will make a move until the economy takes a downward turn.

"I don't think the market is right for it right now," he says. "It's hard to whine and complain about healthcare costs when companies are making record earnings."