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.

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