Winner Spotlight: Dr. Google No More—Medivizor Delivers Cutting-Edge Science Straight to You
Most health information available on the Internet suffers from one major flaw: It’s likely to be irrelevant. That’s right: The Mayo Clinic and WebMD illness pages you find through a Google search after being diagnosed with a condition are mostly generic and often useless for your particular situation.
Tal Givoly, cofounder of Medivizor, envisions a different experience. According to Givoly, Medivizor is a web-based platform that can deliver personalized information about patient’s condition, translating it from medical jargon into plain, readable English.
Givoly’s pitch won the health category for Challenge Cup Tel Aviv last week, earning him a spot in Challenge Festival in May 2015 in Washington, D.C.
But Givoly didn’t wait until May to head to D.C. Following the competition, Givoly headed out to Maryland to speak at the mHealth Summit this week. During his stay, he stopped by 1776 to chat about his company and how he intends to revolutionize health information—and save lives while doing it.
What is Medivizor?
When people become sick with a serious or chronic illness, they or somebody who cares for them become what I call a “chronic web researcher.” This is an undiagnosed, untreated condition—unnamed actually, until we named it. It’s no longer just health anxiety or casual symptom checking. It’s doing everything and anything to help themselves or loved ones.
That whole process is really broken. First, they’re overwhelmed with way too much information and most of it is repetitive. Most of it doesn’t relate to their situation, and some of it is out of date and not relevant. They actually could get to very scary stuff that would be very dangerous for them. And even if they do dive in and get to the core research, they can’t understand it because it’s too complicated.
We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if people would come in and get cutting-edge science—only what’s relevant for their situation—in language they could understand, and sent to their inbox?” They, their caregivers and their doctors, could become world experts on their particular condition. That’s what we do.
How is it different from Google or WebMD?
Google represents the failure. You can learn about breast cancer—but you’ll see the same thing 10 times. If you put the words “alternative” or “natural” in, God forbid, then you’re going to be killed by what you find. It’s not because there’s no information, but because it’s scary to go down that line. It’s generic information that’s not cutting edge and not related to you.
Your mission is to improve lives of those with chronic illness and those who care for them. Incredibly aspirational—how do you operationalize that?
We scan and cull all new information that gets published, and we classify all that information by relevance—can it be used to treat patients now or in the near future? To whom does it apply? How reliable is the information? We translate that into 10th grade English and deliver it to the patients for whom it is relevant.
The trick is that we have to know enough about the individual. If you give us a profile—fill in enough details—then we get to know you. We know what treatments you’ve received, what other conditions you have, your age, gender, height, weight, and then we could find just the information that’s relevant to you.
We begin after a diagnosis. We’re not yet dealing with issues of symptom checking and self-diagnosis. Once you have a diagnosis, we’re here to replace the intense research that’s going on.
How did you get the idea?
Each of the cofounders saw it from a different perspective. I saw friends of mine whose daughter had leukemia and what they were coping with still caused a lot of research. My business partner and friend was the caregiver for his mother, and though he was well-connected and educated, he had to basically hire people to help do (the research).
Then, professor Steve Kaplan saw this from the medical side, when patients would come in with all of these Google printouts that are nonsense and he has to de-bunk what they’ve been told online. Headlines tend to sensationalize—and we do the opposite. We caveat it, weigh it against other information. Think about Medivizor as having a super-motivated, expert doctor working for you, who’s also a member of your family and bringing you the cutting edge.
Where do you get the data that comprises the individualized Medivizor reports?
It’s coming from published journals. Everything published is on PubMed. There’s a repository—it’s just not in plain English. There’s also ClinicalTrials.gov, for instance, and other public repositories that publish this information. It’s not codified so people could figure out for whom it is relevant.
How do you make money?
Since we have this rich user profile, with the permission of the user, we could make money by referring them to the right clinical trials or treatments, or value-added service providers. The other thing is licensing to medical institutions so that the doctors can have it and so that their patients could have it. Finally, there are premium services to some consumers—if people want more capabilities while keeping Medivizor a free resource available to all patients.
What are some of your successes so far?
We are so excited that a top 10 medical institution is now “Powered by Medivizor.” Their health information, research and clinical trials and patient education portals are powered by Medivizor. We have more nonprofits that have endorsed us, and this year we’ve won three startup contests—Doctors 2.0 & You in Paris in June; Interface Digital Health Summit 2014 in Vancouver in September; and of course the Challenge Cup in Tel Aviv.
What in your background—and your cofounders’—paved the way for Medivizor?
Steve Kaplan is a world-famous urologist and has co-authored 850 published works. I don’t know how you even do that. He’s on a dozen editorial boards, and he’s a world expert in BPH. He’s also an entrepreneur. The last company he founded, Mediata Solutions, is one of only two successful digital health IPOs in the last 10 years; it traded at about $2.5 billion on NASDAQ. My other business partner, Dr. Oren Fuerst, I’ve known since elementary school, founded a number of companies.
And I’m a software developer, but I was in startups for seven years, then seven years in large companies, back and forth, twice. Last time I did something in digital health, it was for Israel’s largest HMO.
Most of all, though, we figured out that technology has barely been applied to health. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The flurry of innovation we’re seeing now is barely scratching the surface. Digital health requires both perseverance and extreme entrepreneurship to bring and extract value. We have many years ahead of us, helping people’s lives.
What will you be working on with Medivizor between now and Challenge Festival?
Ramping up subscribers—we’d like to help as many people as we can! We’re also looking to bring on more large medical systems—providers, payers, the whole ecosystem.