RealTime IT News

New Competition for WebMD

Moving directly into WebMD territory and working in conjunction with Microsoft and IBM , drug company Pfizer Inc. is planning a start-up company to market software and Internet services to America's doctors.

The new company, which doesn't have a name or a CEO yet, would be aimed at eliminating administrative paperwork hassles that tie up so much of a physician' time.

The operation also would help to automate functions such as making prescriptions. Using Microsoft's .NET Enterprise Server Platform, Windows 2000 and wireless devices, product offerings will emphasize integrated clinical, financial, and administrative tools to help physicians streamline workflow, Pfizer said.

Elmwood Park, NJ-based WebMD Corp. , founded in October 1998, provides a similar suite of services to the healthcare industry, services that are designed to improve administrative efficiencies and clinical effectiveness. The company's stock was down about 10 percent to $4.75 in early trading today.

WebMD, which has never made any money, last week reported a fourth-quarter loss of $51.8 million, or 14 cents a share, better than the year-ago loss of $47.5 million, or 40 cents a share and the Wall Street forecast of a loss of 16 cents a share.

Also last week, WebMD signed a revised deal with Microsoft to work together to promote WebMD as the primary provider of health programming on MSN and other Microsoft-affiliated sites as well as promote Microsoft technology as the core platform for WebMD's new wireless handheld products for physicians.

It would seem Microsoft's involvement with Pfizer might make WebMD less than happy, but there was no immediate word from company officials.

"Microsoft's involvement in this new venture demonstrates our deep commitment to providing IT solutions to the physician community," said Ralph Young, vice president Enterprise Solutions Group at Microsoft. "Physicians need integrated IT solutions that afford them reliability and mobility so that they can focus on what they do best - providing care to their patients."

The new company will focus on the needs of office-based physicians, particularly those in smaller groups and is expected to make its first products available to the general market later this year, Pfizer said. The company also will pursue acquisitions, partnerships and other investments and will have its own dedicated marketing, sales and customer support structure.