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A Social Network for Your Doctor, Pharmacist and Insurer

WellNet said it knows it is diving into turbulent waters. The company said its online workspace will be guarded by the legal protections specified by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the same online security used by the banking industry. Much like Facebook users, Point to Point members, who must opt in, can control who can see the different parts of their medical profile.

WellNet isn't alone in pursuing such a network. The online health industry is growing rapidly. Internet titans like Google and Microsoft have put resources toward popularizing online medical records. Insurers have been adding more online tools to help their members switch doctors and check co-pay information. Arlington start-up HealthCentral, an online destination for medical information, links people with a particular disease to relevant doctors and blogger-patients.

Revolution Health, founded by former AOL chairman Steve Case in the District, aims to be a one-stop shop for health, offering online tools that help individuals manage their own well-being. For employers, it runs a telephone-based service where members can get help resolving insurance quarrels, scheduling appointments and answering health questions -- what Case once called "AAA for health care."

Janice Algie, Peterson's director of human resources, said she wondered if her employees would use more online tools like Point to Point.

"It's difficult to get them involved in their own health care," she said. "Every time a claim is processed, whether it's health insurance and dental insurance, it's submitted and tells them what they owe. I can't tell you how many employees look at those. Even though they have online access, they still don't look at them."

But perhaps it's generational, Algie said. With few entry-level positions, about 45 percent of Peterson's workforce is age 40 and above.

Dell Nunaley, Dewberry's human resources director, said WellNet's program might help guide employees, who are often bombarded with too many health-care choices.

For now, to entice more users, WellNet will give companies the program for free if they transfer their pharmacy benefits to WellNet. When it opens this service to others early next year, it will start charging a licensing fee.

"It's all about productivity," said Henry Cha, chief executive of Healthcare Interactive, a Glenwood software company that developed Point to Point. "You're in a rat race. You already do online banking. You shop online. You make payments online, just to make sure nothing falls through the cracks."

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