Making Personal Health Networking as Easy as a Book Club: Former Amazon Exec Launches Online Healthcare Site

For Keith Schorsch, it all started with a tick. In the summer of 2004, the former senior executive at Amazon was on the East Coast for a family reunion when (unbeknownst to him) he was bitten. Back in Seattle, he came down with a bull’s-eye rash and flu-like symptoms. Then one night, at a Mariners game, the left side of his face became paralyzed. The doctor on call diagnosed him with Bell’s Palsy. Thirteen weeks, 11 doctors, and an immeasurable amount of pain and suffering later, Schorsch finally got the correct diagnosis: Lyme disease.

Even then, it was only because a friend had suggested he get checked for Lyme. (It’s not common in the Pacific Northwest, probably because there are so few bugs.) And then things got worse. After antibiotics treatments—and what he felt was not enough follow-up care from his doctors—Schorsch suffered from exhaustion and memory loss, then blew two discs in his back. He decided to take matters into his own hands, making it his full-time job to research alternative treatments and connect with others online who had similar ailments.

That’s the idea behind Trusera, the Seattle-based online health network that Schorsch is launching to the public today. The name is meant to convey a “new era of trust and truth,” says Schorsch. His site is an advanced social network that allows users to find and connect with others around specific medical issues and healthcare experiences. “We’re not a message board, we’re not a pity party, we’re technologists and marketers building a platform for people who want to take control of their health care,” says Schorsch.

It’s an intriguing combination of Web 2.0, healthcare, and social networking, and Schorsch’s own story shows the need for such a platform. These days it can be extremely difficult to find relevant—and reliable—health posts amidst the chaos of blogs and message boards. “There’s a missing piece of health care today—connecting to people who’ve been through it,” Schorsch says, pointing to a stat that there are 800 million doctor visits in the U.S. every year. “Think of the amount of experience people have just from those visits,” he continues. “There’s a lot of power in being informed by people who’ve been there. We’re building a platform to allow people to share that.”

Trusera began as a modest outfit in January 2007. “We started out in Keith’s attic,” says Jude O’Reilley, employee number two and now director of marketing and product management. “Sort of the inverse of guys in the garage,” says Schorsch. Last summer, after securing $2 million in angel funding, the company moved to new digs on the edge of Capitol Hill, near the Central District, and now it has grown to 15 people: about a third are from Amazon, with others from Microsoft, Starbucks, and the like. The Trusera site has been in open beta testing since March.

On a recent visit to the company, the startup’s energy was palpable. The first thing I noticed was the unusual … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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