Family and friends are usually crucial when dealing with medical problems, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of companies trying to bring online social networking to the medical world. We’ve cast a skeptical eye on some and argued that a company needs to work hard to stand out. But Seattle startup Trusera has been building a strong community while in testing mode, and founder Keith Schorsch says his site is more focused on practical advice than the competition.
Schorsch, a former Amazon executive, says he was spurred to start the company after his struggle with Lyme disease — despite seeing many doctors, it was “a friend of a friend” who ended up giving Schorsch the correct diagnosis, and it was through friends with similar experiences that he figured out the best treatment. With Trusera, users facing health issues can tap into the knowledge of a larger network of people who have gone through the same experience.
The emphasis is rather different from sites like DailyStrength and PatientsLikeMe, which are more about emotional support, Scorsch says. There’s room for inspirational advice, but Trusera is also a place for concrete suggestions that people can use immediately to improve their health. Also, PatientsLikeMe focuses on connecting people who are dealing with a specific disease — there are obvious reasons for that approach, but Schorsch says it also limits users with unnecessary labels, since people often look for advice in many different health-related areas. [Update: After getting a message from PatientsLikeMe co-founder David Williams, I took a closer look at the site, and it’s more action-oriented than I had initially thought. As I note later in the article, it’s hard for me to judge the quality of the medical advice, but PatientsLikeMe certainly tries to do more than just provide emotional support.]
The heart of Trusera is a system for requesting, publishing, commenting on and rating health advice. There’s also a search engine that keeps the information easily accessible, rather than buried deep within a message board. Trusera has a very active core user base motivated by a combination of altruism and the desire to tell their own stories, Schorsch says.
Since I’m not really looking for medical advice myself, I’m probably not a great judge of Trusera’s content. But from the quick demo, I can say the site looks easy-to-use and friendly to those who aren’t Internet-savvy. For example, the publishing system offers pointers as you write about the best format and content. And when you’re done with an article, you can decide whether it should remain private, become available to others within your social network or to anyone on the web.
The startup is taking the “beta testing” tag off its site today, although you still have to apply to become a member of the site. Schorsch says Trusera’s business plan focuses on advertising; the company raised a $2 million angel round last year.