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By David Mendosa

Last Update: September 2, 1997

The Medscape Web site is intended for medical professionals, so it's not appropriate for all patients. But for patients with diabetes—who tend to manage their condition much more actively than other patient groups—it provides an excellent service.

A large collection of free, full-text, peer-reviewed…medical articles.

"Patients will not get a dumbed-down experience here," says Peter Frishauf, founder and chief executive of New York-based Medscape Inc. "We very much have the spirit of being a reader advocate."

Right now Medscape has more than 350,000 readers. Frishauf says that about one-fourth are physicians and another 48 percent are other health care professionals. The balance, 27 percent, are patients. While slightly more patients than physicians use the service, the physicians are much more active.

Frishauf started Medscape in May 1995 as a part of a medical publishing company after three months of testing with a panel of physicians and others. In April 1996 they spun off Medscape as a separate business.

Like almost every Web site, Medscape does not yet show a profit. "But this is the early days of the Web, and that requires patience from investors," Frishauf says. He finds himself spending most of his time looking for financing from patient venture capitalists. "It's not easy," he sighs. "This is not what I was put on this Earth to do."

The site's revenue comes from "micromarketed advertising." That means, Frishauf explains, that Medscape can put one message in front of a physician and another in front of a patient.

What attracts those physicians, patients, and others to the site is a large collection of free, full-text, peer-reviewed clinical medical articles. The articles look and feel just like print journal articles in the format that doctors are used to seeing.

But the articles are enhanced to take full advantage of what the Web has to offer. Readers can jump to any section of the articles and can click and zoom on its images. Hyperkeys give access to related articles.

Medscape offers a large searchable archive. For example, a search for the word "diabetes" returned 223 full-text articles that mention the term. The Medical News and Discussion Group area had 464 documents, and Patient Information had 56 more. Medscape's bookstore had 173 books on the subject.

Diabetes is well represented on Medscape, although the condition is not yet one of the 15 topics that comprise the site. "A diabetes topic is coming," Frishauf says. "We will have it before the end of the year."

The quality of information that Medscape presents is the best thing about it. Besides that, however, what I like best is its integration, which makes it fast and easy to use.

Take, for example, a Medline search. You can search this huge National Library of Medicine database of medical abstracts through any one of a dozen or more Web sites. But with a Medscape search of Medline just one entry will let you also search Medscape's full-text articles or buy a book on the subject in the Medscape bookstore. And this month Medscape will be adding a premier drug database that you will be able to search with the same entry.

To use Medscape's services you do need to register when you first use it. But registration is quick and easy.

Registration is also free. And Medscape will remain free, Frishauf says, even though he aspires for it to become the Lexis-Nexis of on-line medical information, which I remember as one of the world's most expensive databases. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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