Birmingham’s XpertDox has raised nearly $400,000 from local investors to fund its future growth, helping the tech startup and 2016 Alabama Launchpad winner quickly reach half its goal of $800,000 in venture capital.
XpertDox is a free website that connects patients that have a rare or serious disease with doctors and hospitals that are experts in that particular disease, as well as provides support and information to patients. The company created an algorithm that pulls from a proprietary database of experts in more than 5,000 medical conditions.
Dr. Sameer Ather, co-founder of XpertDox and a cardiologist, researcher and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said this funding – which was unsolicited from a group of 10 doctors in Birmingham who had only heard about XpertDox – will allow the company to hire its first four employees and kick start sales and marketing.
Ather is careful to point out that XpertDox is not a patient review site, but rather a tool that finds experts based on their clinical and research experience. Ather cites research that shows patients treated by doctors with the highest patient reviews have a 26 percent higher chance of dying, compared with those treated with low ratings.
Ather said he has experienced first-hand the problem of finding experts during his work as a cardiologist and when his mother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Results can often be skewed when searching for an expert by patient experience, he said, because the information doesn’t define how good a doctor is in a certain disease.
“Word of mouth referrals are not always the best,” he said. “People sometimes see an average of 10 doctors before they are ever even diagnosed.”
XpertDox’s database of doctors, hospitals and diseases continues to grow and today it includes all medical doctors in the U.S. that see patients, nearly 1 million, and all 4,700 hospitals in the country.
XpertDox’s revenue is derived from the analytics of the data collected from the website’s users. It currently has 30,000 visitors per month and is growing, and 6,000 registered users. Ather, who also has a PhD in clinical investigation and big data, said the analytics are valuable for life science companies trying to identify patients for a given disease and for finding Key Opinion Leaders and site investigators for research, marketing or sales. The data mapping diseases to doctors and patients can also be leveraged by hospitals, insurance companies, data analytics companies and health care IT companies.
Ather is working with the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) to advance the company’s corporate development goals. Jon Nugent, vice president of innovation and technology for the BBA, said the company is attracting significant interest from potential partners, collaborators and investors.
“XpertDox is an exciting company that brings a new technology-based approach to connecting patients with doctors,” said Nugent. “We are excited that the company is based here in Birmingham and we are looking forward to continuing to work closely with Dr. Ather and the XpertDox team as they expand the platform and grow into new markets.”
A native of India, Ather has put down roots in Birmingham in the five years he and his family have been here. He came to Birmingham in 2012 from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, following an internship at Columbia University in New York. He received his medical degree from King George’s Medical University in India.
After receiving his PhD from Baylor, Ather’s mentor – UAB’s Dr. Neal Kay, a well-known cardiologist – told him there were only two places in the world he should go next, either the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or UAB in Birmingham.
Choosing Birmingham was the right decision, he said, because XpertDox could not have been built anywhere else.
“We never would have gotten this big this fast in Silicon Valley,” he said. “There, it’s always a race and there is no time to think and implement, which can be a problem when you are scaling up. We could not have built this company anywhere else but in Birmingham.”
XpertDox was a finalist in 2016 for the Alabama Launchpad startup competition, where the company was awarded $40,000 in funding. Ather said the process helped clarify the company’s mission and goals and provided his team a better understanding of their capabilities.
“We really evolved during the process and learned from the feedback,” he said.
After sales and marketing is kicked off, the next step for XpertDox is to integrate premium services into the site, said Ather, such as adding a tool for patients to set up appointments with doctors online, and provide online consulting, doctor referrals and social networking.