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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Internet

Health sites are spreading

In the latest symptom of the trend, Physicians' Online enlists Reuters to administer it medical news.

Online health sites are booming, evidence that yet another profession has found a niche market on the Internet.

In the latest symptom of the trend, Physicians' Online (POL) said today that Reuters Health Information Services will provide it daily feeds of medical news. Like others, the private network aims to be a one-stop shop for medical information, communication, and education programs. POL also has added other resources that its members find useful, such as stock quotes.

The Reuters newsfeed will include more than 100 medical articles each week. The site's goal is to "aggregate new content with communications services and Web access to provide [members] with a comprehensive package of online resources," said Steven Zatz, chief executive of POL.

Not only doctors but lawyers, accountants, and other professionals find that the Net is an effective medium to communicate and perform research. During the tax season, for example, big accounting firms such as Coopers & Lybrand and Deloitte & Touche are launching their own sites for industry executives to communicate.

Most users find the sites informative, although they typically see them as just one source of information, and not a one-stop shop. The POL site has more than 10,000 subscribers.

Online health sites are exploding, many of them aimed directly at consumers. For example, an online site called "pharmacy.com" is expected to launch later this year that will allow users to order medical supplies, including medicine, on the Net 24 hours a day. Another, called "housecall.com," is an online medical encyclopedia. The list keeps growing.

While users find the sites useful, some want to know who the sponsors are. Along those lines, the Food and Drug Administration last fall held hearings with more than 300 law firms, ad agencies, pharmaceutical firms, and medical education groups to discuss possible guidelines for medical and drug-related content on the Net.