Par8o, from Sermo Founders, Aims to be Patient-Physician Matchmakers

1/10/12Follow @xconomy

[Updated 1/11/12 5:15 pm. See below.] “Sermo has been my baby, my blood and tears,” its former CEO Daniel Palestrant told me in a phone call last week.

So it was pretty shocking last week when news surfaced that the founder of the Cambridge, MA-based online community for doctors was moving onto a new Web startup, along with Sermo chief medical officer Adam Sharp. It wasn’t always going to be that way, Palestrant said, but more on that later.

Par8o, the new startup, began as a research project within Sermo. Drawing on the insights of its large online physician community (more than 130,000 people strong now), Sermo had formed the opinion a few years ago that the healthcare bill would not achieve its goals of improving patient care and lowering costs, Palestrant said. Among other things, the community thought the bill (signed into law March 2010) needed greater reform to medical malpractice policy and ways to improve patient engagement.

The research team at Sermo hypothesized that to achieve these goals, what’s needed is “the introduction of Pareto dynamics,” where efficiency is created through better matching supply and demand, said Palestrant. The idea comes from the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

So what exactly does that look like and how can a new health Web startup help? Palestrant explains that in Par8o’s case, it’s about improving the patient referral process. Referrals, he said, are “a critical moment in a patient’s healthcare journey, either a change in diagnosis or an escalation in care.”

Often, this means the general practitioner sees a new health problem in a patient and needs to bring in a specialist to really tackle it, said Palestrant. That should work fine, right? Not exactly, according to Palestrant. Of the tens of millions of patient referrals per year, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent never actually result in another appointment or handoff to a new doctor. “The patient never … Next Page »

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