High concept

Doctors may have embraced the beeper be-fore the rest of the world, but their technophilic tendencies seem to have ended there. Jerold B. Spitz, a practicing internist and founder of National Physicians DataSource LLC (NPDS), a $7-million database company in Avon, Conn., wants to bring the medical profession into the 21st century.

Spitz's company, which for 13 years has been publishing The Little Blue Book, a community-specific medical directory, launched a service called MDhub.com in April. It enables patients to communicate -- albeit briefly -- with their doctors through the Internet. Developed and maintained by Hartford-based outsourcer business-edge.com, MDhub provides every physician in NPDS's database (there are more than 360,000) with a personalized message center. Patients access it by typing www .mdhub.com/ and their doctor's phone number into a browser. "Physicians don't want to set up their own Web sites," says Spitz, who believes that doctors underestimate the number of their patients who use the Internet. "They're not ready for them."

The free service, which asks patients to check boxes or fill in short fields, is intended for nonurgent messages -- prescription renewals, test results, appointment cancellations -- and nondiagnostic-related questions. Messages are delivered as faxes rather than as E-mail, says Spitz, because most doctors don't use E-mail in their practices. "They use computers for billing purposes but not as a communication tool," he says. "This is not rocket science. It's just an alternative way for patients to send messages. Nothing changes other than the system of delivery."


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