Chairman and CEO, RevolutionHealth.com and Co-Founder, Former CEO, AOL
Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:00 PM
Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL and now chairman and CEO of
A transcript follows.
Steve Case: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining me today.
Many of you have been following the progress of Revolution Health, especially since our launch of RevolutionHealth.com a couple of months ago, and we certainly appreciate your support.
This week we launched our Online Health Fair (www.revolutionhealth.com/healthfair). We've partnered with a variety of non profit organizations to shine a spotlight on the great work they are doing.
I am happy to talk about that or anything else you want to ask about, so let's get started!
22102: Why do a Health Fair online?
Steve Case: Organizations have done health fairs for years, but they have always been physical. We decided it would be fun trying to do one that was more virtual. So far, we've been very pleased with the reaction!
Washington, D.C.: I'm curious, why health care? And do you really think you can make a difference? How quickly?
Steve Case: Health care is a huge problem for our country. It is a $2 trillion industry that is 1/6 of the economy. But almost everybody is unhappy with it. My view is the key to changing the system is consumers taking more control of their health. We are working on that through a variety of initiatives that give consumers more choice, control and convenience. This isn't an overnight effort - it took 10 years for AOL to hit its stride, and 20 years to build a medium. Revolutionizing health care requires a similar long term perspective.
Mr. Case, how do you envision RevolutionHealth.com's role affecting the current health care crisis facing our nation, especially those who cannot afford adequate coverage.
Steve Case: There are many complexities to the insurance side of the equation. As you note 45 million people don't have insurance. Some can't afford it, and that's where a government safety net makes sense. But some can, but have opted out, in part because of the cost and complexity. We're trying to address that. One initiative is an insurance marketplace we launched at RevolutionHealth.com, to give people a sense of their options.
Lakewood, Colo.: Why have physicians been slow to use the internet as a tool for interaction with their patients?
Steve Case: Physicians have complex lives. Many run very small businesses, and can't afford to invest a lot in technology. And they are very busy, serving patients and trying to keep up with the latest advancements. But we believe the role of physicians must be central to any change in health care. We want to help empower physicians to work more collaboratively with their patients. Technology is part of the answer, we believe.
Baltimore: What, in your opinion, is the future of medicine with relation to the Internet?
Steve Case: Right now there is a lot of health information on the Internet. That's the good news. The bad news is there is so much of it and it can be hard to digest. We are aiming to add some context, community and personalization. We start with trusted sources like Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic and then marry that with tools to help you understand your health - and take action to improve it.
Washington, D.C.: Did you encounter Barack Obama when you were in high school (I believe you both went to the same school).
Also, which (if any) Presidential candidate do you think has the most appealing health care plan?
Steve Case: I did go to the same high school as Barack. (Punahou in Hawaii.) I was a senior when he was a freshman. I didn't know him then but have gotten to know him since. I am glad he and others are focusing on health care. I believe it is one of our nation's most vexing problems, and we need to have a policy debate about solutions. But our focus is not on policy -- we are neutral -- we are instead focusing on empowering consumers and giving them more choice, control and convenience.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Steve -- Every health fair I've been to has tchotchkes -- are you offering online goodies for the online health fair? Thanks.
Steve Case: Yes we are! We have a little goodie bag for the people who take the time to visit the fair.
San Francisco, Calif.: Given the current state of privacy management and public awareness of breach potential, how is it possible to mitigate medical ID theft based on personal health record leaks?
Steve Case: This is a very important question. Obviously privacy is a big deal in general and is even more sensitive when it comes to health. We are developing our products and services with the idea of empowering consumers and letting them decide how to use the information, which they control.
Coral Springs, Fla.: Do you feel the health space is getting too tight for all these competitors? And who do you think your main competitors are, other than WebMD?
Steve Case: I think WebMD is doing a good job but there is a lot of room for innovation in the health space. For years I talked about the marriage of content, context, community and commerce. That has happened in many areas like financial services - buying stocks is much easier now because you have a lot of information and tools at your fingertips. And you can track your stock portfolio to see how you're doing and make course corrections. But you can't really do that for your health. That is what we're working on - adding the missing elements and linking them all together in a simple,understandable way. Someday we want every family to have a health portfolio to manage their health, in addition to a stock portfolio to manage their investments. It is crazy this doesn't exist today!
Herndon, Va.: I have two questions. First, what sparked your sudden interest in the health care industry? And second, do you believe in some sort of government funded health care plan?
Personally, I think the problem with health is it is more about profit and less about healing.
Steve Case: I got interested in health for a lot of reasons. I had some personal experiences, including dealing with the complexities of 5 kids. And my brother Dan died from a brain tumor 5 years ago. Watching him navigate the system was eye opening - and troubling. I decided to focus my time on improving health. Since I am not a politician I figured I should focus on business solutions. So started Revolution Health to bring an entrepreneurial approach to the industry.
Westwood, Calif.: Hi Steve:
Do you think the "standards" being developed are helping to accelerate adoption of EHR/PHR and will Revolution take into account these emerging standards?
Steve Case: We are every interested in electronic medical records. We have the beginnings of a system on our site now. You can track a lot of information (think of it as your family's health scrapbook). And you can also fax us your printed records and we will digitize and store them for you. We just announced an alliance with Medco and are working with other companies as well to drive innovation in this space, through collaboration.
Columbia, Md.: While I am impressed with the initial steps you have taken to provide consumers greater access to health information, the current focus appears one-sided. How are you engaging the wider health care eco-system (Pharma, MedTech, Managed Care, Gov't, etc. ...)in your plans?
Steve Case: We are just getting going. We started the company two years ago and launched RevolutionHealth.com two months ago. We have a long road ahead to build the kind of company, and have the kind of impact, we are aiming for. But you have to start somewhere, and we believe what we have launched represents a great start. We have lots of plans to expand from this start, with other products and services. Indeed, we aspire to build Revolution Health into the most trusted consumer brand in health.
Fort Washington, Md.: Will Revolution's impact on health care be synonymous with AOL's impact in technology. Why or why not?
Steve Case: I think there are some paralells. When we started AOL in 1985 most people didn't have PCs and the few that did didn't have modems. So it took a number of years to get traction. But we never lost sight of our mission which was to build a new medium that would someday be as pervasive as the tv or telephone, but be even more valuable. It took us a long time to get there. Similarly, revoltionizing health care is hard, complex and will require a sustained effort over many years. I spent 20 years trying to make the Internet a mainstream phenomenon, and intend to spend the next 20 years trying to put the patient back at the center of health care.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, Steve. Is this online health fair the type of thing Revolution Health will continue to do that makes it a different kind of health Web site? What else do you have planned?
Steve Case: We do want to do things differently. We are trying to bring a fresh perspective and that means trying new things. Some will work, others won't, but we are committed to swinging for the fences, and taking risks. That is why we called the company "Revolution Health" not "Evolution Health"!
Vienna, Va.: How much of your focus and interest is on alternative health care?
Steve Case: It is of interest. I think it is crazy that there are all these silos in health care. For starters, health care is really sick care - i.e. dealing with people when they are sick. More emphasis needs to be placed on keeping people healthy. And when people to get sick, all options should be on the table, including integrative or alternative approaches.
Washington, D.C.: Do you miss your former professional life, AOL, technology?
Steve Case: Not really. I was proud of what we built and the role AOL played in making the Internet accessible to the masses. But it was time for me to move on, and take up a new challenge. Health care is certainly a big challenge! And while we are doing a variety of things, technology is certainly an enabler. We are trying to connect the dots, and technology is in many cases the glue. So I still have an interest in technology, but the bias has moved from building the core platform or infrastructure to leveraging that to improve peoples lives.
20036: Saw your interview about this Health Fair on CNN with Heidi Collins. She has Celiac Disease. Why is the research on it so minimal? Thank you for bringing it into the spotlight.
Steve Case: Celiac is one of many diseases that is not well understood. It is starting to get more attention and that is encouraging. But most people don't know what it is, how it is diagnosed, or what to do if you have it. Educating people is a core principle of RevolutionHealth.com and we're delighted to be working with a variety of great organizations to do that.
Washington, D.C.: Have you contacted any hospitals or health orgnizations for advising on this venture into health care?
Steve Case: Yes, we have talked to dozens of hospitals and are working with many of them. We have a lot to learn about health and that starts to listening to the people who have been doing this for decades. They seem to welcome the consumer-centric approach we're taking, as most believe that is a core problem of the current system.
New York, N.Y.: When will the company be more "visible?" I've not seen too many ads and only learned about it because I'm a health nut -- how will you engage more patients?
Steve Case: As I mentioned we just launched two months ago, and are in the building mode. Like AOL, we want to constantly improve the service, and also believe happy customers are the best marketing, so word of mouth is key. But we have gone from a site with no users a few months ago to several million monthly users today. And we're just getting going.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Case: Your goals seems to be to give patients more choice and control, but the fact is many patients (and their families) feel helpless. They don't understand the terms or the options. They just want someone to tell them the right thing to do. Maybe the problem is too much choice?!
Steve Case: Too much choice is sometimes the problem, if people don't understand their options. But more choice is good if the choices are better and their are tools to understand the pluses and minuses of various alternatives. We want to empower patients and their families - indeed we recently acquired Carepages.com which does just that.
Baltimore: What do you think new online health community Web sites such as Sermo, Organized Wisdom and Heathline contribute to the current ecosystem in heathcare. Each has a different focus: physicians, consumers and search.
Steve Case: I am pleased to see more companies focusing on health care as we need innovation on all fronts. Indeed I was speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference last month and urged some of the other attendees (which included Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others) to focus more on health care as they can make contributions. Together, I believe we can change the system. But the core is empowering consumers with the tools to take control of their own health, and the health of their loved ones.
Rockville, Md.: First I have to let you know that I respect and have followed your career for a long time. At your Web site I noticed there is both traditional medicine and a natural health area; how has the medical community responded?
Steve Case: The response has been positive, overall. Most people seem to agree that the system has problems and new approaches are helpful, and appreciate the passion and commitment we're bringing to it. Some things we're doing - like Revolution Ratings, which enables consumers to rate doctors, hospitals and treatment options - are a little controversial, but we believe there is a vacuum there and we're trying to fill it. Consumers have tools to pick movies and restaurants and should have similar wisdom of the crowd tools for health care.
Southeast Washington, D.C.: I am related to and am friends with several people that regularly visit the Internet for health info. I also visit the Internet for health info. It is a great tool if you have sprained your ankle and need to know how to manage your injury (happened to me) or if you are seeing floaters in your vision and are worried (happened to brother-in-law).
However, many people cannot process complicated information presented to them. Others struggle with hypochondria, personal problems like depression or an aversion to work. There are people that will read a list of symptoms and turn a painful big toe into proof they have a blood clot.
I think health info is great but sometimes I wish that people had to turn to a big family medical book like my parents did in the 70's. It is just too easy to type some disease into a search engine and then freak out about the findings.
Steve Case: This is a fair point. The good news is there is now a lot of information about health on the Internet. Indeed, if you go to Google and type in diabetes you'll get 130 million or so hits back! The bad news is it is overwhelming, hard to digest, and sometimes contradictory (or just plain wrong). So that is why content is an important starting point, but having trusted brands like Mayo are critical - and why adding context, community and personalization are critical as well. We don't want to be a library you go to occasionally, we want to be a service you use frequently to stay healthy.
Arlington, Va.: Realistically, how long do you think it will take for the health care industry to fully embrace interoperable technology for sharing medical information, and what are you doing to speed up the procees?
Steve Case: Many years. It is a fragmented industry. But the key is consumer adoption. If consumers start using services like RevolutionHealth.com to manage their health information, they will start demanding that their providers link to it. This is like Quicken. It started as a bill paying software product in the 80s but as millions of people started using it they were able to connect to banks and brokerage firms and suddenly it became more valuable to more people. That is what we're trying to do with RevolutionHealth.com - jumpstart the adoption of records by empowering consumers.
Washington, D.C.: Do you still stay in touch with your AOL buddies, Jim Kimsey and Ted Leonsis?
Steve Case: I do. I see them frequently. Indeed I was at the premiere of Ted's great movie "Nanking" a couple weeks ago - and am working with him on some projects. And I was at Jim's house a few months ago.
Philadelphia: I'm a caregiver and really appreciate you putting the spotlight on caregiving in the health fair. Caregiving is so misunderstood and more people need to understand how mentally/physically draining it can be. Thanks.
Steve Case: Caregiving is hard. Millions of people struggle with caring for loved ones, often in distant cities. They need better tools to support their efforts. We have been working on this and are launching a caregiving section on RevolutionHealth.com next week! It will provide tips on caregiving for others, while also giving tips to the caregivers themselves, as they have a difficult job, and need a helping hand.
New York, N.Y.: You've done a lot in two months. Can't wait to see what's next.
Steve Case: Thanks! It is a good start. We're proud of what we've done so far. But there is still much to be done. We're in the top of the first inning in terms of building Revolution Health and trying to drive change in the health care industry. But at least now we've finished spring training and are on the field!
Arlington, Va.: Steve, I have been reading Revolution Health.com with great interest. I find the information helpful and I like the doctor blogs. It would be great to learn more about alternative medicine and how it might help with my condition -- and which insurance plans have the best coverage for alternative medicine, so I don't have to rely so much on prescriptions. Are you going to do more on alternative medicine?
Steve Case: Yes, this is an area of focus. We have a number of projects underway to take what we're doing in the alternative area to the next level. And we recognize that what is missing is a more blended approach, to understand all of your options, both on the more traditional side as well as alternative.
Upper Marlboro, Md.: Mr. Case, do you see election 2008 having a huge impact on your new venture and if so, what might that be?
Steve Case: It is hard to predict what will happen in Washington DC, particularly given how polarized things have become. But it is good to see that health care will be a major topic in the 2008 election. And it also good to see innovation happening in a variety of different states. I suspect the ultimate national solution will first be tested in a more local setting, so watching what is happening in Mass., Calif and other states is very important.
Atlanta: How can doctors take back control of their profession from the Big Insurance Companies and get paid for what they do? Doctors are the only people I know that provide the same patient care to the different people, but get reimbursed for their service at a different rate.
Steve Case: The problems of the current health care system are immense. We got here through a series of decisions (and unintended consequences) going back 60 years, when wage controls were put in place during World War II and companies started offering benefits such as health. Now employers are playing an increasingly central role and for many companies it is becoming cost prohibitive. Just doing more of the same is not the answer. Fresh perspectives are needed. And I agree, the critical relationship to build on is the one between doctors and their patients.
Steve Case: Well thanks to everybody for joining me today. Lots of great questions! I look forward to another chat in the future. And I'm glad you're all interested in health care. We all need to get involved! And I hope you take the time to use RevolutionHealth.com. Tell us what you like and what we need to improve! And this week in particular take a look at our Health Fair! Bye!
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