By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Revolution Health Group, the year-old company started by America Online co-founder Steve Case, yesterday unveiled a preview of its free health Web site and debuted a concierge-style consumer service.
RevolutionHealth.com launches in April. Until then, the Web site remains under development, with new features added daily.
As of yesterday, users could search for condition-specific information, find a physician, check symptoms and trade comments with other users.
Technical glitches, however, slowed down navigation. Users testing some of the online tools were greeted with the message: "We're sorry, but Revolution Health is experiencing an unusually large amount of traffic and isn't available. Please stop back soon."
Other features, which rely heavily on user-generated comments, were not working as intended. Not enough people, for example, had registered an opinion to have ratings in most categories.
"We're working through a few little kinks," Case said. "The service will get better each day as more people use it. The wisdom of crowds is only useful if you have a crowd."
RevolutionHealth.com joins a list of contenders seeking to become the leading online provider of health-related information. The nine-year old WebMD is by far the dominant player, with 35 million unique visitors per month and about $170 million in annual revenue.
WebMD yesterday unveiled a preview of its own "next generation" Web site that includes free appointment services and the option of creating a personal health record. It also offers a symptom checker and condition-specific message boards.
Other competitors include HealthCentral Network of Arlington, a collection of condition-specific sites that has 7 million unique visitors per month, and Waterfront Media of New York, publisher of EverydayHealth.com, which has 5 million unique visitors per month.
Case and his fellow investors in District-based Revolution Health, including Colin Powell, Carly Fiorina and Franklin Raines, are also looking beyond the Web.
To get more users to post their thoughts on RevolutionHealth.com, for example, the company is offering a year's free membership to Revolution Health, its largely telephone-based health-care service, to those who sign up before the official launch in April.
After April, for an annual fee of less than $100, the service will work as an "AAA for health care," Case said, where members can call to get help with insurance disputes, schedule appointments and get answers to health questions.
Revolution Health is part of Case's holding company, Revolution LLC, which he started in 2005 with $500 million of his own money. Revolution has also invested in high-end resorts, a retailer of yoga videos and a car-sharing service.