Launched by the former head of Nokia’s App Studios after a frustrating personal run-in with the health care system, the startup provides easy access to a searchable database of about 600,000 doctors nationwide. It launched on the web and with a mobile optimized last fall but on Thursday released its first mobile app for the iPhone.
“What we focus on is the discovery problem – it’s not always about needing to find a doctor today,” said founder and CEO Ari Tulla, referencing ZocDoc. And, he added, that when it comes to mobile, “If I learned anything [at Nokia], it’s that mobile has to be very simple – there has to be one thing that it does well.”
For BetterDoctor, he hopes that one thing is helping people find a good doctor in as little time as possible.
To streamline the process, the service only helps people search for a general practitioners, dentists, pediatricians, OB/GYNs and optometrists (as opposed to the endless array of specialists available on ZocDoc and other sites). And it only lets people search by location and insurance company. The service is free to consumers but earns revenue through lead generation.
Similar to ZodDoc, the app then returns a list of relevant doctors, with biographical and contact information, specialties, affiliations and reviews (supplied by Yelp). But Tulla said the company pays special attention to evaluating doctor quality. While other doctor discovery marketplaces may give prime real estate to those willing to pay for it regardless of how good they are, he said BetterDoctor uses big data and machine learning algorithms to attempt to validate each doctor.
In addition to the basics – a doctor’s education, board certification and experience – the startup looks at patient reviews, malpractice history and referral data that can indicate whom other doctors hold in high esteem. Doctors that meet all of its criteria surface most visibly in searches and get a special designation as a validated physician; doctors that have don’t pass malpractice screenings or have other issues end up closer to the bottom of the list.
BetterDoctor is definitely not without competition – besides ZocDoc, companies like HealthTap, PokitDok, HealthInReach and others fall somewhere on the spectrum in the doctor discovery space. But I like their data-driven approach to validating doctors (HealthTap also attempts to rank doctors by quality although it uses slightly different variables), and I appreciate their stance on reviews. Tulla said patient reviews are only a part of how doctors are ranked because “consumer reviews are tricky in healthcare.” Studies have shown that on most doctor review sites, there aren’t enough reviews for them to be reliable and that they tend to skew positive.
Unlike many doctor discovery sites, BetterDoctor doesn’t let patients leave reviews and comments of their own because Tulla said they don’t yet have a way to verify that a patient actually met with the doctor. But he indicated that it’s something they could roll out in the future.
Tulla declined to share too many details on user activity or revenue, but said the company, which has raised about $525,000 in seed funding so far, has been used by hundreds of thousands of people.