"Lab Industry Briefs"

Omnicom Group, CareSoft, eMedicine.com, Verisign, RSA Security

AD AGENCIES PREPARING “DIRECT TO PATIENT” MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

HERE’S MORE EVIDENCE that healthcare providers like laboratories and pathology groups will increasingly market their services directly to consumers.

One of the largest consolidated advertising agencies in the world has taken minority equity positions in five healthcare-related Internet companies. Omnicom Group, whose agencies include BBDO Worldwide and DDB Worldwide, expects to use these relationships to connect its pharmaceutical company clients with both consumers and physicians. Two sites are consumer-oriented (Healthology Inc. and Caresoft Inc.); two sites are physician-oriented (WorldMedicalLeaders.com Inc. and eMedicine.com Inc.); and one is a clinical trials site (eResearch Technology Inc.).

Omnicom Group hopes to capture the identities of consumers and physicians who visit these Web sites. “We will be able to give [drug companies], down to patient and doctor, the kind of audience they want. We’re going to be able to cut this so many different ways. They must go through us,” stated Tom Harrison, chief executive of Omnicom’s diversified services division.

The involvement of an advertising agency in the equity ownership of these e-health companies has generated controversy. But the fact that a major global ad agency is willing to take an investment position demonstrates that use of the Internet to reach both consumers and physicians about healthcare services is expected to occur.

Alert readers will note that CareSoft owns a consumer healthcare site called theDailyApple.com. Quest Diagnostics Incorporated uses this Web site to permit its patients to access their laboratory test results. This is one reason why Quest Diagnostics is ahead of most of the lab industry in positioning itself to become a brand name widely-recognized by consumers.

SPECIFICATIONS FOR ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES UNDER DEVELOPMENT

MANY LABORATORIANS ARE FAMILIAR with the passage of the federal Global and National Commerce Act that establishes electronic signature standards. This law takes effect in October. However, few people understand that HIPAA requirements are more complex.

Most states already passed electronic signature legislation. The federal law establishes minimum standards for legally-binding e-signatures, but remains technology-neutral. It will supersede some state laws which have lower requirements for electronic signatures.

The standards that HIPAA proposes for electronic signatures can be found at http://aspe.os.dhhs.gov/admnsimp. HIPAA guidelines currently do not require any type of electronic signature, but that could change over time.

HIPAA requirements say that if users, like laboratories, want to use electronic signatures, their system must include user authentication, feature non-repudiation, and guarantee the integrity of the message or data to which it is “attached.”

A number of vendors are working to establish a viable e-signature system. These include Verisign (California), Silanus Technology (Quebec), and RSA Security (Massachusetts).

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