HealthTech Accelerator #2: Medical Search Technologies’ Founder had a need for more information

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting the companies that are participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

As is the case with many entrepreneurs, a personal need is frequently a key driver in starting a company. That was certainly the case with Jan Sevcik, Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Technology Officer of Medical Search Technologies, one of the participating companies in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator.”

“I was nearing the end of an earn-out period in 2010 after selling a company when I got sick,” Sevcik told us during a recent interview. That company that he also founded and led as CEO developed predictive pricing software, and Sevcik stayed-on as Chief Information Officer after it was sold in 2007.

Ironically, it was an expertise that he had honed at that first company – developing algorithms and customized software – that was the fuel for his newest venture as well as the recipe to address a critical need that he and other consumers have for more robust access to medical information.

Sevcik explained that, in his case, he began searching medical journals for specific treatment options for his condition and the effectiveness of those options. “My needs were more different than most,” he said. “My first surgery was one of only 200 that had been performed at the time.”

What Sevcik discovered was the difficulty that consumers encounter in finding the information that want quickly and completely. Mining of unstructured text from publications is particularly daunting.

So, what did he do? Sevcik drew on his technical background, combining something called natural language processing (NLP) along with other customized software and algorithms to develop a tool to classify text and extract relevant data.

It served his needs, so Sevcik says, “I thought there might be a business here. However, I did not want to build a higher end WebMD.” His answer was to launch Medical Search Technologies.

“We started with a platform and decided to identify where the biggest pain points were,” he told us.

By 2012, Sevcik had raised a seed round, primarily from the executives who had purchased the company that he had sold in 2007.

“We started generating revenue in 2013,” he said, adding that a Series A round of funding followed in 2014. By then, he was living part-time in Chattanooga before moving to the city full-time two years later.

So, what exactly does Medical Search Technologies do or, perhaps more important, what is its secret sauce?

Sevcik says the company processes data through a two-step approach. The first step is focused on both structured and unstructured data that is processed through NLP. An example of the latter type would be patient progress notes that are usually typed or dictated by the physician rather than being checked-off on a form. Once both types of data – structured and unstructured –are in a common format, there is a second processing that occurs to answer whatever question or questions are being posed.

“Originally, we did a lot of individual research projects, mostly in pharma,” he said. “Now, we have a greater balance between providers and pharma.”

In the case of pharmaceutical clients, Sevcik says a project might focus on how the client’s drug is being used in a therapy, possibly in combination with other drugs, compared to how a competitor’s similar drug might be used and in what sequence. The Medical Search Technologies capabilities are also widely used for clinical trials.

On the provider side, Sevcik says “we could be looking at the entire patient record” or tracking patients based on the initial diagnosis and the types of follow-up being recommended.

“We’re in a major growth mode,” he says. “It took time to develop and operationalize our approach. A number of deals are about to come together.”

The “HealthTech Accelerator” provides fuel for that growth in several ways. For example, Sevcik says his discussion about use cases with representatives of the two key sponsors – Erlanger Health System and Unum – have identified needs that he had not considered.

Describing the Accelerator as a “sandbox opportunity,” Sevcik adds, “I’ve lived in some big tech centers, and you don’t get this type of opportunity there.”

Most of the company’s development team is based in Chattanooga with a few people in Chicago.

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