After a frustrating search to find the best local doctor in San Francisco during a “series of family emergencies,” Ari Tulla teamed up with friend and co-founder Tapio Tolvanen to do something about it. The result of what Tulla calls his “vendetta against the broken healthcare system” is BetterDoctor, a search engine and ranking service for doctors, which launched in September.
As veterans of the mobile space, most recently at Nokia, the co-founders focused on building a simple, device-friendly interface around their physician database, starting with an iPhone app and a mobile-optimized web experience for iOS and Android. Since launching in September, the search engine has grown from 5,000 doctors in 5 medical specialties to over 1 million across 60 medical specialties. Today, the co-founders tell us, over four million people have used the service to find a doctor, and 5,000 physicians have now signed up to access its “doctor dashboard.”
With one million people now using BetterDoctor to search for local physicians each month and with a staff that’s grown to 21, the startup is looking to expand and to refine its matchmaking algorithms. To do so, the startup is taking on $2.6 million in seed funding from Jeff Clavier at SoftTechVC, 500 Startups and Burrill & Co. As a result of the round, Clavier and Burrill & Co.’s Dirk Lammerts will be joining BetterDoctor’s board of directors.
Of course, part of the work that lies ahead, which the new funding aims to assist, is raising the level of awareness for BetterDoctor among physicians. While one million doctors are listen on the service — and 300,000 have passed the startup’s “quality screening,” which means their experience, education, licenses, board certifications and referral network all fit the bill — many of these doctors are unfamiliar with the service.
While some physicians are wary of listing services, as it can be difficult to tell which are legitimate, which will stand the test of time and which can actually add value, BetterDoctor hopes to get over the hump by acting as a lead-generation service. Some physicians have over 10,000 profile views on BetterDoctor, Tula says, and as a result, the company is looking to help doctors not only find more patients but market their practice more effectively.
Physicians who sign up and pay to use the service — become “verified” — can claim their profile and use BetterDoctor to promote themselves and their practice. However, to avoid skewing search results, the service takes into account both consumer and peer feedback, as well as qualifications, to avoid surfacing only those “doctors who pay the most, but might not be of good quality,” Tulla says.
That’s how the co-founders believe that the service can compete with ZocDoc and now Practice Fusion (among others), which offer ways for consumers to search, browse recommendations and book appointments online.
Furthermore, because 90 percent of people still book doctor appointments by phone, Tulla believes that by creating a mobile-friendly and focusing on simplicity, it can offer users a better search experience. The other area where BetterDoctor can create an advantage is by focusing on matchmaking and connecting patients with the right doctor.
Combining both of these factors, when using the service on the mobile web, users can search by specialty on the majority of mobile devices, improving recommendations by keying in your insurance plan. The service is also, thankfully, devoid of advertisements and does not list doctors with negative ratings or those who have had legal trouble or are fighting malpractice suits.
The team isn’t ready to go into details on its new plans for improving rankings and matchmaking, but it’s clear that this is where it will focus most of its attention going forward. If BetterDoctor can convince more doctors to claim their profiles and sign on, offer more information about their services and information coverage, and if it can hone its patient-doctor matchmaking, the startup could help make the tedious process of searching for doctors that much better.