SAN FRANCISCO--The Internet will dramatically transform routine physical check-ups and prescription orders, despite a health care industry that has been slow to utilize it, Intel chairman Andy Grove said today.
Speaking to a crowd of doctors and health care administrators at an Intel conference here dubbed, "Intel's International Health Day," Grove said that the Internet has grown at such a breakneck pace--despite rocky PC and semiconductor shipments this year-- that, within only a few years, there will be 1 billion PCs with Internet access around the world.
"The Internet is at a strategic inflection point for health care providers," said Grove, referring to his theory that existing strategies end up diverging at "inflection" points. According to his theory, those who do not diverge eventually will lose, while those who anticipate the changes and adopt them eventually will capitalize greatly.
"In order for all of us to get on the right curve, action from the health care industry is necessary," he said.
Grove cited numerous figures to drive home his point. For example, he said that, in 1997 more than one-third--43 percent--of all Netizens searched for health-related topics online. He noted also that the Web contains more than 15,000 health care-related sites.
In addition, Grove said that widespread consumer usage of the Internet has transformed many patients into self-educators who seek out medical information on their own before they visit a physician. Patients also are seeking medical advice, chatting with fellow patients, ordering prescription drugs, and researching medical literature online.
But the health care industry must do more, or the country's largest service industry could miss a pivotal opportunity to make changes that other industries already have adopted, he said.
Grove added, however, that the health care industry likely will not provide a cure for this year's shaky semiconductor sales. Nor does he foresee Intel providing the power behind the smaller computer devices that doctors often use, which many industry analysts and observers have touted as a potentially lucrative and largely untapped market.
"Our focus today is to bring together the connected consumer with the health care provider," Grove told CNET News.com. "That's the most logical [solution] right now."