Avicenna follows another start-up formed earlier this year by Netscape Communications founder Jim Clark called Healtheon. That company seeks to deliver services by the fall that will allow consumers to enroll in health plans and obtain benefit information over the Web without the usually cumbersome paperwork.
The first customer to sign up for Avicenna's services is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which is also Healtheon's maiden client. Together, the two services might provide the first test of whether new Web-based technologies will be able to lower health costs by any appreciable degree.
But according to Avicenna, the two companies are not competitors--not yet, at least. While Healtheon is focused on services for consumers and employers, Avicenna is aiming at medical professionals through its Web site, which includes databases called the Medline, the AIDSline, and the Bioethicsline. The company also wants to help managed care organizations, hospitals, and other medical organizations set up intranets, CEO Inder-Jeet Gujral said.
Avicenna connects medical organization securely over the Internet to enable applications such as billing and treatment authorization, processes that normally require a jumble of faxes, telephones, and private communications links.