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Steve Case 2.0

Sara Goo

Steve Case stopped by The Post for lunch today and spent much of it talking about his new Revolution Health company and Web site. There's been a lot of buzz about this D.C. company and it's been confusing to understand exactly what Revolution Health is: A search engine/social networking Web site for health? A place that would store health records electronically? A service for people to help navigate the health care system using a phone service? Turns out it's all of the above, but not all at once. Case, who has personally invested $100 million of his own money earned from his years at the helm of AOL, has a very long-term view of his new venture. Unlike most executives at startups, he says, "We're taking the 20-year view of this." Indeed, there was not a lot of talk about revenue or profitability.

Case made a lot of comparisons to his Web 2.0 venture and his earlier days at AOL. He said he enjoyed his first 10 years at AOL more than the last 10. "The first 10 years was more about scaling something" and he's better at that, he said.

Case isn't the only one to identify health as the potentially next big thing on the Web. WebMD, the leader in online health, is operating a $170 million business. There's competition from HealthCentral Network in Arlington and rumors that Google will jump into the mix soon, too.

The Web site launched last month in beta and has had a few glitches. Early on, the site became overloaded at times and it had to work out some kinks before the official launch in April. The site allows visitors to search for specialty doctors by location and look at how other patients have rated their docs. But when I checked it out recently, only a handful of doctors in the DC area have ratings.

It's still early, Case noted, adding that most of the early visitors will likely be moms - the Chief Medical Officers of Families, as he referred to them.

Eventually, people who want more services from the company, such as phone consultations about insurance disputes, will be charged an annual membership fee of under $100 a year. The Web site, however, will remain free and be supported by advertisements.

Case also plans to expand more walk-in health clinics located in pharmacies like Walgreens or Wal-Mart that offer around-the-clock care. The idea is that if your kid gets sick over the weekend - when the doctors' offices are closed - you won't have to wait until Monday morning to call the doctor or spend hours waiting in the hospital emergency room. So far, he's set up more than 35 of these clinics but envisions thousands of them, "Just like Starbucks."

This time, there's a lot more riding on Case. He has collected an A-list of high-profile investors such as Colin Powell, Carly Fiorina and Franklin Raines, who are betting that this Web site/membership/retail idea for health care will take off. Ten years from now, Case said, "There will be a Fortune 50 company in health care that does not exist now... it's a big bet, but it's a big opportunity."

By Sara Goo  |  February 28, 2007; 3:53 PM ET  | Category:  Sara Goo
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