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Johns Hopkins enters Web health arena

The premier medical institution is starting an online information service.

A major new player is pushing its way into the already crowded business of providing health care information to consumers on the Web.

The new company, InteliHealth, combines marketing muscle and $25 million from U.S. Healthcare, one of the largest HMOs in the country, with the expertise of Johns Hopkins University and Health System, one of the premier medical institutions in the country.

But InteliHealth goes up against such companies as Healtheon, founded by Netscape Communications co-founder Jim Clark that last month signed Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts as its first customer; MedAccess, which explains health-care benefits to employees; and other Silicon Valley start-ups.

The partners have been creating content for months (its goal is 50,000 pages), but the consumer Web site won't launch until October. In the meantime, InteliHealth is trying to cut licensing deals for customized multimedia health information to online services, corporate Web sites and media companies.

The first licensee, due this month, will be a unnamed paging company that provides medical news to customers that use its Panasonic pagers. Next month InteliHealth will mail traditional catalogs to 550,000 asthma sufferers who can then order information on allergies.

""With the changes in technology, we can deliver more credible and valuable information directly to the consumer, directly to the home." said Tom Durovsik, CEO of the joint venture company, in which U.S. Healthcare is the majority owner. U.S. Healthcare is merging with Aetna Life Insurance in an $8.9 billion deal due to close by October.

Durovsik, a former president of Franklin Mint, which sells commemorative memorabilia direct to consumers, figures marketing will be a key to the company's success.

"We want to distribute content a lot more widely than most health care databases," Durovsik added. "This is probably the first health care information company that is consumer-centric and consumer-focused."

"We are trying to bring to consumers the ability to quickly understand information from areas such as nutrition, sports medicine, health and exercise," said Jay Rosan, InteliHealth chief medical officer.

InteliHealth is building a multimedia production center on the Hopkins medical campus in Baltimore so its 2,000 medical staffers can have easy access for online chats and other involvement with multimedia content.

For Johns Hopkins, the venture means both minority ownership and a royalty on revenue.

"This is a way to generate new sources of unrestricted revenue for the institution," said Scott Sherman, the assistant dean at Johns Hopkins who oversees the InteliHealth relationship.

Intelihealth is seeking revenue from licensing deals with Fortune 2000 companies, advertising on its consumer Web site, a share of ad revenue from licensee's sites, and traditional catalog sales.

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