Peter Frishauf’s career has spanned a wide variety of roles and disciplines—writer, editor, publisher, entrepreneur, and innovator—but he forever changed the face of our industry with his creation of Medscape, which harnessed the emerging power of the Web to create a place where healthcare professionals could find peer-reviewed information and CME materials. While his fertile mind and boundless energy spawned countless innovations and improvements in the field of communications, Medscape had a profound effect on our industry.
The son of an electrical engineer and a physician, Peter’s first career choice was medicine. But as an undergraduate in the tumultuous 1960s, he joined the staff of the New York University student newspaper, Washington Square Journal and switched his major to journalism. As editor, he oversaw the conversion of the weekly student newspaper to a daily, and as a student correspondent for United Press International in 1968 and The New York Times in 1969 and 1970, his coverage of student protests landed him several page-one stories.
In 1972, after graduating from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism as the Nate Haseltine Fellow in Science Writing, Frishauf started his career as a medical writer for a number of national magazines. In 1975, at age 26, Peter and a partner started F&F Publications, Inc., borrowed money, and bought Hospital Physician magazine from the Medical Economics Company. The following year his company launched Physician Assistant magazine. The company was sold in 1977, and Frishauf went to work as an editorial director for the new owners, PW Communications, Inc.
In 1981, Frishauf raised venture capital and started SCP Communications, Inc. From day one, in the pre-PC era, SCP was a paper-free electronic community: the sales, editorial, production, and finance groups had networked access to information and work processes via a hand-built alpha micro computer, with much of the system developed by Peter.
In 1995, Frishauf started Medscape, a low-budget experiment that crept onto the Web courtesy of a nimble and efficient team at SCP that staffed and funded the project. Medscape was his vision for a place on the Web where physicians and other healthcare professionals who registered could find freely-available, trusted, peer-reviewed medical content and CME. Medscape launched on Monday, May 22, 1995 with the following description:
MedscapeSM—the online resource for better patient care.
A new, free Web site for health professionals and interested consumers. Practice-oriented information is peer-reviewed and edited by thought-leaders in AIDS, infectious diseases, urology, and surgery. Highly-structured articles and full-color graphics are supplemented with stored literature searches and annotated links to relevant Internet resources. From SCP Communications, Inc., one of the world’s leading publishers of medical journals and medical education programs.Almost 20 years later, Medscape is still thriving and profitable—and as a product, is better than ever.
What made Medscape possible is the corporate culture Frishauf nurtured at SCP, a healthy, informal, and committed place where people were encouraged to try new things and imagine new possibilities. SCP’s low-cost operating style proved the most viable way to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Frishauf served as Medscape’s CEO until February 1998 when he became Chairman of its Executive Committee. He was a member of its Board of Directors through its IPO and until its merger with MedicaLogic/Medscape, Inc. in May 2000. MedicaLogic sold Medscape to WebMD in December 2001, and Peter left the enterprise in 2002. SCP was acquired by CMP Healthcare Media in 2004.
Peter Frishauf contributions to the industry and his community are numerous. He is a past president of the Healthcare Marketing & Communications Council and the nonexecutive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Crossix Solutions, Inc.; a director of MedPage Today, a site that covers breaking medical news peer-reviewed by the University of Pennsylvania; a director of the Omnimedix Institute, a healthcare information technology consultancy; and an advisor to Markle Foundation’s Connecting for Health initiative. In January 2009 he joined the Board of Directors of Oakstone Publishing. He also serves as president of the Alumni & Friends of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and is a member of the medical journalism advisory board for the medical journalism masters program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Innovative, high energy, and intensely supportive of his colleagues and staff, Peter Frishauf established a record few can match, but all can marvel at.