PharmasurveyorLogoPharmaSurveyor is a free service that analyzes your medications to point out potential drug interaction and side-effect risks. It was founded in 2006 by Linda and Erick Von Schweber to commercialize the ‘knowledge surveying’ technology they have developed over the last 25 years or so.

Given the fact that Adverse Drug Effects (ADE) are one of the leading cause of death in the US, there is significant market opportunity in consumer education and support around it. Couple of nifty features that I like:

  • Direct meds import from Healthvault
  • Community Knowledge Base – an aggregation of information and experiences from people who are on multiple drugs. This feature is currently in private beta, but I think that it can be a great revenue opportunity once it gets some traction in terms of number of users. There are plenty of pharma companies who would pay good money for getting early (even though informal) insight into side-effects, efficacy, interactions, and usage patterns of their drugs.

Seems like they are planning to integrate with DestinationRx and Polka, which is a good idea since the traffic from those sites will already be primed for the services that PharmaSurveyor provides. The advisory board has some significant names, including Barney Pell, Matthew Holt and Mark Musen.

They do have some interesting marketing techniques like analyzing celebrity cocktails, not requiring registrations, etc. Business model seems to be only google ads for now, which is no surprise given their research-oriented background. The site is more a proof-of-concept for the underlying technology (although I’m not sure what it is exactly). It’ll make a lot of sense to integrate this service with commercial CIS offerings, and take it one step beyond just using RxNorm.

Aug’10 Update: PharmaSurveyor service changed its name to SurveyorHealth. Now they also offer mobile apps for iPhone and iPad.

Flutrends’s flutrend is an attempt to model flu activity across US based on the search terms that users enter around flu symptoms, treatment etc. The underlying premise is that there is a relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people have flu symptoms. Think of it as a virtual public health surveillance proxy. If you are not convinced that this is a brilliant idea, take a look at how their analysis relates to CDC reporting.

In case you didn’t know, is the philanthropic arm of Google, and it was formed with the commitment of 1% of’s profits to address some of world’s most urgent problems (read the famous 2004 IPO letter by Larry and Sergey where they mention it). The site humbly admits that the Flutrends system is experimental. Nevertheless, it’s impressive that in some instances Flutrends was actually predicting flu before CDC.


Of course, not all people who search for flu have flu necessarily, but the power of this analysis comes from the coverage and promptness, not the granular accuracy. The basic idea of harnessing the collective thought (a.k.a. search needs) of the population to predict/monitor health events is fantastic. And this is just the beginning, IMHO. When a population is connected real-time and discussing what they think/want/need, abstracting that information can yield powerful insights- not just for prediction and monitoring, but for most aspects of healthcare (diagnosis, prognosis, news, followup etc).

The concept is applicable to domains outside of healthcare too. Take twitter for example. Twitter is another platform with mass adoption where people are having real-time conversations about what they are thinking/doing. Just look at what intelligent twitter mashups did for getting real-time snow report of the Feb’09 storm in UK or the Dec’08 Ice Storm in New Hampshire. There are health related examples too- the feb’09 salmonella-in-peanut-butter recall could be tracked promptly on a Twitter feed (btw, this slideshare presentation by PF Anderson at the University of Michigan explains ‘Twitter for Health’ in detail. Thanks to Christine Gorman for the link).

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Healthmap is a perfect example of what technology can do to advance healthcare information. It aggregates online media reports to enable infectious disease intelligence on a global level. Its a near real-time internet-based infectious disease surveillance that is free from political and geographical restraints.

Healthmap extracts real-time information from more than 10,000 sites every hour and text mines them for disease and location patterns using bayesian filtering. The interface is clean and intuitive mashup with google maps. Links to the source of alert and a ‘heat index’ (composite score for each incidence based on things like recency of alerts, number of sources etc) are provided.

There are limitations too-  dependance on other sources, unstructured text, lack of integration between sources, not comprehensive, etc. But if you think of it as a free resource that supplements existing public health systems, its a great asset for general public and clinical professionals.

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SimulConsult is a diagnostic decision support system started by Dr.Michael Segal. It covers 1,800 diseases that have at least one neurological finding in them.

SimulConsult has an interesting logic behind it. Roughly speaking, its knowledge is derived from a ‘computational wiki’ that is restricted to physician users only. So its database is not only open for viewing, but users can submit modifications to the database. The system performs bayesian pattern matching and also considers temporal information like the age of onset and disappearance of each finding for each disease under consideration.

According to Dr.Segal, there are about 33,000 data points (disease findings) in the system and the future expansion plans are to include more of metabolism and genetic diseases. Interestingly, the wiki approach for knowledge gathering in healthcare is becoming more common (AskDrWiki, WikiDoc, wikiMD to note a few- more on them later).

Feb 20, 2009 Update: Got an email today announcing that those who contribute information to SimulConsult database will now get paid for their contributions. As they are adding sponsored links in the software, I guess it makes sense to share the wealth. More info here.