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INSURANCE / Payment Proposed for 'Information Therapy'

January 28, 2002

Doctors often complain that they get paid for examinations, tests and treatments, but not for time spent giving information to patients. That could change if one organization has its way.

Healthwise Inc., a nonprofit corporation that provides consumers with medical information, has mounted a national campaign to have health insurers reimburse doctors for referring their patients to places where they can bone up on the particulars of their disease. The concept has been dubbed "information therapy."

Instead of writing a prescription, a doctor would write instructions for where the patient could find details about treatments or conditions, such as relevant Web sites. This would be designated on a prescription pad with an Ix, instead of the traditional Rx.

Last week, Healthwise announced the opening of a Center for Information Therapy in Washington, D.C., that will begin trying to sell the nation on the idea that information is just as important as medication.

"Information therapy can be a powerful key for consumers to feel more in control of their health," said John Rother, director of policy and strategy for AARP, a national lobbying organization for senior citizens. Rother is among 11 members of a new commission advocating information therapy. He's joined by representatives of major medical centers, health insurers, and groups that study quality medical care.

Jane E. Allen

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