Health Drives iMedix

SAN FRANCISCO – Technology startups often say they create products to address a need in the marketplace. In the case of iMedix, its two founders saw a direct personal need. The two Israelis had health related issues they thought Internet technology could help with.

Amir Leitersdorf suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) throughout his childhood and wasn’t diagnosed correctly until adulthood. His friend and co-founder, Iri Amirav, was struck by shrapnel from a bomb while serving in the Israeli army. “It was hard to find people to talk to with the same kind of head injury,” he recalls.

Tech veterans of other ventures, the pair saw an opportunity to help connect people with the same health-related issues and launched iMedix last month.

“We realized healthcare is a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be collaborative,” said Amirav, chief marketing officer of iMedix; Leitersdorf is CEO.

WebMD is probably the granddaddy and the biggest site for consumers to research health and medical conditions. But there are also a number of newer big Internet players going after various parts of the consumer healthcare market including Microsoft.

There are also plenty of community sites and social networks where people can exchange information about their condition.

iMedix marries research, including an extensive database of freely available medical information, with a social network that lets users share their experience in a live chat or via a private email system. You can also post your photo for chat, or choose from a selection of avatars.

iMedix has several new features in the works. Currently, when you look on the site for, say, “headaches”, you will get a list of relevant sites for more information. In addition, there’s a separate list showing people who put headaches in their profile who you can ping online or e-mail to ask a question or start a conversation.

But there’s also a rating system in the works where users will be able to rate how helpful someone’s advice was. The higher the ranking and community involvement, the higher on the list these active users will appear as a first point of contact.

“We’re not replacing physicians. This is complementary,” said Leitersdorf at a briefing here with “When a patient leaves the doctor, they often have many questions they think of later. iMedix provides a way to connect with others with similar issues such as ‘How did you feel after surgery?'”

Leitersdorf said iMedix has several patents pending for the search engine it developed. Results are ranked based on user ratings of the result, such as clicking on a simple thumbs-up icon. A unique twist is that iMedix said its technology analyzes patterns from the small percentage of users who rate a site (typically around one percent), to make a more comprehensive ranking. For example, the site takes into account users who are often more compelled to give a site a negative rank when they feel it’s wrong than credit it for being right.

“We analyze the information in creative ways,” he said.

Time will tell whether iMedix has the right online prescription for consumer’s health and medical needs, but the opportunity is large.

A 2006 study by Jupiter Research found that only 16 percent of adults who searched online for health information were satisfied with their findings. Another Jupiter Research study said that 34 percent of US adults connected with others online, or with the online content created by others, for health reasons.

In addition to its main site, the company offers a widget that lets other Web sites embed iMedix search and drive traffic back to iMedix which relies on advertising for revenue.

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