WorldOne Interactive + Sermo - How Technology is Being Used to Make Global Healthcare Better

Thursday Jan 2, 2014 by Dennis Keohane - Senior Writer, VentureFizz

So much happened in the Boston tech community in 2013. By far, one of the best trends to emerge was the explosion of Boston companies driven to build products and businesses that impact the greater good.

Of those trying to make the world a better place, one project that you may have missed last year involves physician connector WorldOne Interactive + Sermo, a company that gained a ton of traction toward building a worldwide communication pipeline for doctors.

WorldOne Interactive + Sermo, which was borne out of WorldOne's acquisition of the Boston company in July of 2012, is one of the projects that we are most excited about continuing to watch develop in 2014.

WorldOne, the global market research company, acquired Sermo with, in the words of Sermo's Jon Michaeli, "the vision of creating a global engagement platform for physicians."

As he explained, "WorldOne already had a global network of two million healthcare professionals-one million of which are physicians-for the purposes of participating in market research. They decided, 'We are already engaging physicians, why can't we engage them in more powerful ways."

So WorldOne purchased Sermo and brought their online physician community into WorldOne's network of doctors doing market research. As Michaeli said, "The market research is going on in the background. You can discuss any topic in the forums. You can ask a case question in near real time, etc."

"Plugging [Sermo] into the global scale that WorldOne has, we now have this very powerful service for physicians to collaborate and engage with each other in a lot of different ways," he said. One of the reasons that WorldOne Interactive + Sermo is growing so quickly is, as Michaeli said, because, "We have this community with a purpose, where the shared goal of the community is to improve healthcare."

To fully get an understanding of how the WorldOne/Sermo partnership is working, you need to watch the video below that shows how their tool is being used by Floating Doctors to better handle some of the difficult to diagnose health problems that arise in developing countries.

Although ten minutes long, it is a much watch-not just to get a better understanding of what Sermo is, but to see some of the good that is being done with the technology. 

Floating Doctors, a global healthcare relief organization, discovered Sermo and started using it in the field. The possibilities for the use of this tool are quite amazing as seen by the results of the video.

"This is what happens," as Michaeli said, "when you have a true community, with a strict purpose; high levels of engagement and responsiveness, accountability to each other; and critical mass of over 200,000 physicians who you've built the right tools for."

"This is significant because of the broad applications," he said. "It's not jus an application that works in developing countries and remote locations. You can see in that one example you get almost 300 years of medical education converging on an individual patient at one point in time, at near zero cost."

The mission of improving patient care is the driving force behind the entire project. However, WorldOne Interactive does have a monetization plan that is tied to the data collected from the conversations being had by the doctors on the network.

"Our model is a two sided market," Michaeli said, "we have physicians who we attempt to engage in different ways, and we have pharma and life sciences firms that buy access to those physician's insights and expertise on the other side of the market."

"The general engagement tools that we have are simply meant to increase the value, the utility, and the frequency in which these physicians come. In the end, there will be many more opportunities for doctors and clients alike."

WorldOne raised $35M in a Venture Round from Deerfield Management earlier in 2013. Sermo was VC funded and had raised $41M in funding over five years before being acquired by WorldOne.

Sermo is a great revitalization story as Michaeli said concluding our talk, explaining, "We were acquired by a larger company and now have access to capital and scale and resources that we didn't have as a venture backed startup. We are able to take existing products as well as innovate new products to take things to a whole new level. That's a great story for Boston."

Dennis Keohane is the Senior Writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.

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