Startup Insider: 4 questions with ePatientFinder CEO Tom Dorsett

In 2013, ePatientFinder launched with a mission to revamp clinical trials by making them more accessible to the general public.

The startup uses a patient referral platform, called Clinical Trial Exchange, to connect life science companies with clinicians in various care settings. On the platform, providers can securely match information from patient EHRs with criteria data for certain trials.

The result? Seventy-eight percent of patients matched through ePatientFinder are accepted to clinical trials. When patients are referred through traditional direct-to-patient marketing tools, just 3 percent are typically accepted.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with ePatientFinder President and CEO Tom Dorsett to discuss ePatientFinder's background, culture and goals.

Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What prompted you to found ePatientFinder?

Tom Dorsett: I've been in health IT for about 18 years. I had previously founded a company called NuScribe, a voice documentation recognition system for physicians. That company was acquired, and I worked for the acquiring company for a few years.

I wanted to create a new venture that would leverage data to do something positive for patients. Then, in 2007, my youngest daughter was born with a large birthmark that covered about 30 percent of her left leg. The doctor explained a laser was largely ineffective on that type of skin anomaly. I asked what was going on in clinical trials, and he told me a bit about one trial, but suggested I go online to see what other types were out there. Upon doing so, I found about 25 other trials available.

I noticed an interesting disconnect. I started looking at the ways we could utilize electronic health data compliantly to make it easy for physicians, clinics or hospitals to have specific trials in areas where they had expertise. It took several years, but the model came together, and we realized we now have a unique model that leverages EHR data compliantly, but also maintains the trusted patient-physician relationship.

Q: How many people does ePatientFinder employ? What is the company culture like?

TD: We have around 30 employees. We think our culture is remarkable, and we base it around the concept or mentality of a tribe — it goes deeper than just being a team. Team members work together to accomplish a common goal, but in a tribe you have to be far more reliant on one another and also be agile and lightweight. It's a concept everyone has embraced.

It also lacks the politics many startups have once they get to our size, and lacks the self-drive of any one person looking out for themselves. [Our employees] know that because our business is a two-sided marketplace — involving the life science clients and physicians and clinics — if any one side doesn't work fluently, the whole thing falls.

Q: How does ePatientFinder fit into the broader healthcare landscape?

TD: We're starting to work with a lot of academic research centers to help them drive their research programs and to bring them new trials. Research is such an important part of what academics do, and we can help them do it even better.

We'll play an important role in value-based care. We identify [certain patients], and if we're able to get them into a trial, that cost is covered by the sponsors. You're defraying that cost from the health system, which is really significant. For an ACO, it works beautifully toward their shared savings program.

As everyone's noticed with the new administration, there's a focus on the [Food and Drug Administration] and President Trump's issue with the drug industry in general to lower costs. That's something we do on the backend. Fifteen to 20 percent of the cost of running clinical trials is identifying the patients for those trials. It's very difficult to identify those patients.

Q: What does the next year hold for ePatientFinder?

TD: Continued growth. We've been growing very quickly, as well as working with new partners in the space. We're also networking together the known electronic health record space in terms of large companies and population health companies. We want to be embedding our platform into the greater healthcare IT universe.

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