Medivizor Takes on WebMD, Dr. Google, With Customized Health Service

8/21/13Follow @benthefidler

When people are diagnosed with a disease, the first move they, or their family members typically make is to book a long appointment with Dr. Google or WebMD. A New York-based startup named Medivizor thinks they’re making a mistake. Now it will get its shot to prove it.

Yesterday, the one-year old startup began offering its personalized medical information service, Medivizor, to the general public—specifically, people with one of these conditions: lung, colorectal, breast, or prostate cancer; melanoma; diabetes; coronary artery disease; hypertension; or stroke. Rather than leaving subscribers to sift through a whole Internet’s worth of medical information for relevant details, Medivizor promises to answer their questions about their specific conditions. Signing up is free; the company plans to turn the service into a moneymaker through referral fees and other means, according to co-founder and CEO Tal Givoly.

Givoly, med tech investor Oren Fuerst, and Weill Cornell Medical College urology professor Stephen Kaplan formed the idea for Medivizor a few years ago. Givoly and Fuerst had watched friends and loved ones cope with serious illnesses, and noted how time-consuming it was to stay abreast of the latest information about those diseases. And Kaplan had seen patients come in with printouts having incorrectly diagnosed themselves based on information they gleaned from Dr. Google.

Tal Givoly, CEO of Medivizor

Tal Givoly, CEO of Medivizor

“We realized that there’s a problem with health information. It’s not personal, and it’s not understandable,” Givoly says. “There’s a lot of great health information out there, but it’s generic.”

So with an unspecified investment from themselves and certain angels (Givoly wouldn’t specify who), the group founded Medivizor in 2012 with the plan to tailor that information to individuals based on their already-diagnosed conditions.

The idea is for Medivizor to serve as a personalized filter for people with specific diseases. Rather than blindly search the Internet, unearthing information that could be irrelevant, outdated, too general, or just inaccurate, people would rely on a team of Medivizor’s in-house doctors, PhDs, and medical writers—as well as outside specialists the company consults with—to sift through online resources, find the latest credible, relevant information, and send a detailed e-mail to the subscriber. Those reports are peer-reviewed internally before they are sent, according to Givoly.

Here’s how that would work. A person would go to Medivizor’s site and open up an account specifying what condition he or she was suffering from and some demographic details, but without revealing any of their private information. Medivizor would ask a series of questions (between 5 and 15) about the disease—for example, what type of treatment the person has already received, what types are being considered—to pinpoint the exact nature of the patient’s condition.

Medivizor would then provide an initial report tailored to the subscriber with items such as treatment options given the person’s specific situation. After that, the company would send the subscriber a customized information alert whenever relevant new information became available—about a new clinical trial or data published in a medical journal, say. Those alerts would be written by an in-house team that translated medical jargon into something a 10th grade English student could understand, Givoly says.

As a person’s condition changed, he or she could update the profile, and receive updates tweaked to account for them.

“It gives people the peace of mind that they could better manage their condition,” Givoly says.

Despite the number of companies coming up with new ways to utilize personal health information, Givoly asserts that Medivizor is providing the only service of its kind. WebMD, for example, inked a partnership with Qualcomm Life in March geared towards tailoring health information to consumers by linking data from their health devices—like a glucose meter—to a WebMD app. But Givoly says that that initiative is focusing on pieces of data, rather than the whole picture of a person’s health condition.

“We really capture the essence of what makes one person different from another, not the granular data that needs to be mined for information,” he says. “It’s the whole situation—not one aspect that could be monitored with a FitBit.”

That’s all well and good, but how to turn the idea into a profitable business? Givoly says the company has three plans to do so. One is charging a fee for referrals that Medivizor would make to connect a patient to a “hard to match” clinical trial, or to certain medical services or second opinions, Givoly says.

Another avenue would be licensing the service to hospitals and clinics. And a third option would be starting a line of premium services, such as a case-management concierge service that would more hands-on advice, he says.

Medivizor hasn’t accomplished any of this as of yet. Rather, it’s only done beta testing of the service on a small basis and formed partnerships with patient organizations like the Colon Cancer Coalition and Chris 4 Life to help promote it. But Givoly still says that the company believes that it can be successful enough to become cash flow positive with these types of revenue streams in about 12 months. Its biggest roadblock, he says, is making the people who need the service aware that it exists. The company is also working to add other conditions such as multiple sclerosis to its menu as it begins offering the service.

“We feel that there’s a lot of people that can benefit from this,” he says. “Every day we make these connections that can save peoples’ lives, or improve their quality of life. And people are really thanking us all the time for doing that.”

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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