In the mid-1990s, just as the Internet was starting to take off, Harry A. Levy, M.D., M.P.H. ’82, looked at the information available online for physicians and saw a virtual desert. “Not much was going on in health care on the Internet,” says Levy, 59. “I decided I could do better.”
So in 1996 Levy launched the first continuing medical education (CME) site on the Web and hasn’t looked back. His creation, Cyberounds (www.cyberounds.com), now has 125,000 registered users and a potential audience of more than a half-million physicians, as a result of the cooperative arrangements Levy has struck with major online publishers and professional societies. The website offers conferences in 15 disciplines, including cardiovascular medicine, geriatrics, genetics, psychiatry, rheumatology and women’s health.
Each conference provides a case study, diagnostic clues and a discussion by experts, usually highlighting emerging treatments. Conferences are moderated by faculty members from medical schools around the country, and physicians who complete the work can earn CME credit from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the program’s academic partner. (Last year Einstein awarded a total of 20,000 CME credits to participants in Cyberounds courses.) As it approaches its eighth birthday, Levy’s brainchild has the longest track record in the online CME field, and last June it received a Nettie award from MD Net Guide as best CME provider.
“Doctors are busy people,” says Levy. “What we do for them is provide the experts to lead them through the information jungle.”
Levy and his collaborators at Cyberounds have also employed a playful approach to CME (Levy calls it “medutainment”). Two years ago, they launched “Cardio Country Club,” a Web-based golf game in which physicians compete against each other and advance through an 18-hole course by correctly answering questions about the management of cardiovascular disease. More than 3,800 online learners have played the game.
An NYU medical graduate, Levy trained at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in preventive medicine and studied public health at Yale. After starting and running several health care businesses in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, he decided he would need to make time for at least three careers. He sold his companies in 1991 and set a goal of writing five novels, then doing basic research in neuroscience.
He’s now at work on his third book (his second, a mystery novel titled Chain of Custody, was published by Random House in 1998), is writing a screenplay and expects to be slicing brain tissue by the time he turns 65. He figures the conventional age for retirement will be a good time to begin the next chapter in his professional life, however unconventional that may seem to others. (Levy notes that his great-grandfather lived to be 110 and that both his grandfathers reached 90.) “I think I can stick to my timetable,” he says, smiling. “At least I’m crossing my fingers that genetics will help me out.”
As for the future of Cyberounds, he says the company will turn its attention to developing courses serving the subspecialties. “We want to drill down deeper—beyond the general category of endocrinology, for example, to have focused modules in diabetes or thyroid disease,” he says. “We want to do more interactive programming, including games and decision-tree programs, courses customized to the user’s individual needs and interests.” Currently in the works are a triathlon game on rheumatoid arthritis and disease management software for doctors and patients.
Levy says the business (which includes a consumer site, TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com, and an e-scheduling site, MakeMyAppt.com) has been profitable for the past six years despite the bursting of the tech bubble. One factor in its success, he says, is that the company is doctor-driven and doctor-created, and it caters to what physicians want. “We owe our success to word-of-mouth among physicians. We haven’t had to advertise and instead were able to invest in innovative programs. You grow slower, but you become more useful to the medical community.”