Doximity: A Mobile Facebook for Doctors, but With Real Privacy Protections

6/21/11Follow @wroush

LinkedIn founder and CEO Reid Hoffman likes to say that in the world of social media, Facebook is the backyard barbeque, MySpace is the dark nightclub, and LinkedIn is the office. To continue the metaphor, Twitter is the corner soapbox—and Doximity, a new social networking tool for physicians, wants to be the hospital.

Or so says Jeff Tangney, founder and CEO of the San Mateo, CA-based startup, which raised $10.8 million in Series A funding this spring from Emergence Capital Partners and Interwest Partners. Tangney was the longtime president and chief operating officer at Epocrates (NASDAQ: EPOC), the provider of mobile drug reference tools that raised $86 million in a February IPO. And Doximity is what Epocrates probably would have been if smartphones had existed in 1999, when Tangney started the company: a combination medical directory, list maker, and secure messaging tool that runs on any iPhone or Android phone. He says the service is designed to help overcome the information barriers that currently make it difficult for doctors in different practices or hospitals to communicate about patient care.

“The goal we were trying to solve for doctors with Epocrates was the problem with medication errors,” Tangney told me recently. “No one can keep in their head all 3,000 drugs and how they interact with each other. ‘My peripheral brain’ was how one doc described it. In leaving Epocrates after being there for 10 years and getting the itch to do something entrepreneurial again, my physician friends and I saw that there is this next big problem in healthcare that can be solved by these super-connected devices like the iPhone, and that is the communication problem.”

Jeff Tangney

The average primary care physician in the United States refers patients to 250 different specialists at 117 different practices and hospitals in a given year, according to Tangney. “Keeping in touch with all those specialists is very difficult,” he says. “I would argue that you need a LinkedIn-style directory and a way that you can securely send e-mail to other doctors. Unfortunately, many of the electronic medical record systems out there are very siloed.” To get his son’s medical records from Stanford Hospital to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation less than a mile away, for example, the documents had to be printed out and faxed, even though both organizations use the same electronic health record system, Tangney says. “So I don’t think you can rely on the corporate level to make this work.”

On the up side, nearly 80 percent of U.S. physicians own a smartphone, according to Manhattan Research (and 30 percent already have an iPad). That gives them a platform for bypassing the existing IT infrastructure in their practices or hospitals and communicating with one another directly. All they need is messaging software that complies with the federal health privacy guidelines known as HIPAA—which Doximity does, according to Tangney.

Here’s a video overview of Doximity from Tangney; story continues after video.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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