Emphasis Search, the maker of a physician search tool designed by medical specialists, is leaving stealth mode today. It’s raised $1 million in seed funding.
The San Francisco startup’s chairman is Wade Smith, a neurologist at University of California, San Francisco. Chief executive Spencer Punter says the company has its roots in Smith’s frustration with the referral process. It’s bad enough that it can take a month or more to get an appointment with a specialist like Smith, but it’s even worse when the referral isn’t quite right. Then patients have to get in line to see another specialist, while Smith wastes a slot on someone he wasn’t best-equipped to help.
There are already physician search tools out there like WebMD, but Emphasis Search is aiming its MatchScore tool at hospitals, not directly at patients. In other words, it’s a way for hospitals themselves to make the best recommendation when a general practitioner or a referral service asks for help. At first, I thought it seemed a little silly to limit each search to a single hospital — but then, I’ve been lucky enough to never need a specialist myself. Punter, however, pointed out that a hospital like UCSF actually has around 1,000 doctors, and traditional word-of-mouth referrals don’t always work when confronted with such a vast network.
MatchScore is also more nuanced than a WebMD search or the in-house search engines developed by some hospitals, Punter says. Those are usually basic keyword searches — as long as a physician says he or she treats a specific disease, they’ll come up in your results. MatchScore, on the other hand, allows physicians to specify their priorities, and it ranks search results based on those priorities. For example, if you need to see someone about breast cancer, you’d rather see an oncologist who focuses on breast cancer 80 percent of the time than one who treats it only 40 percent of the time.
The $1 million seed round was led by Royal Wulff Ventures. Robert E. Cook of Royal Wulff is joining Emphasis Search’s board, as are Louis J. Lavigne, Jr. (formerly chief financial officer at Genentech) and Jon B. Fisher (formerly vice president of product management at Oracle). Fisher’s security startup Bharosa was acquired by Oracle last June, and he says Oracle or other big tech companies may take a similar interest in Emphasis Search.
The startup was founded in February, although Smith and his cofounders have been developing MatchScore for the past year and a half. Emphasis Search is in talks with Bay Area hospitals right now, and Punter hopes to launch with the company’s first customer in July or August.