Tom Dorsett got the idea for ePatientFinder after looking into clinical trials for his daughter, who was born with a large port-wine stain birthmark.
Their medical specialist didn't know of any, so Dorsett began searching online and found that over a dozen were available.
Although his family ultimately decided to postpone treatment, it convinced Dorsett that there was a need for a better way to link doctors and patients with providers of clinical trials.
In 2013, he co-founded ePatientFinder, and since then, the Austin-based startup has focused on building out its web-based platform, which doctors can use to search for trials and new treatments for patients.
Now, the company has raised $8.2 million to ramp up expansion. The funding, provided by a strategic health care technology syndicate, will allow ePatientFinder to grow its sales force, add engineers and build out its partnerships with doctors and clinical trial providers.
"A lot of work we've done over the last three years has been building out a brand new concept that never existed before," Dorsett said. "We had to create a blueprint and demonstrate it could work before we could raise a significant amount of money. We're now at the point where we're really ready to scale out significantly."
At any given time, drug companies and medical device companies are actively recruiting for more than 17,000 trials in the U.S. For doctors, staying on top of new niche treatments and drug trials can be difficult. As a result, more than 86 percent of clinical trials are delayed, according to CenterWatch, a life sciences industry research provider.
Traditionally, patients are found through mass marketing campaigns, such as billboards and print and TV ads. But because companies are looking for people with very specific medical issues, that process is time consuming.
"If doctors and specialists don't know about the trials, the patients who need them probably won't either," Dorsett said. "We're changing that by working with the physicians to help them identify patients for some of the best trials and treatments out there."
The ePatientFinder platform, which is HIPAA compliant, integrates with electronic health records to find patients who could qualify for a particular trial or treatment. It alerts the patient's doctor, who consults with the patient and helps determine eligibility.
The service is free for health care providers; ePatientFinder generates revenue from the drug and medical device companies seeking patients.
So far, ePatientFinder is working with about a dozen electronic record vendors and five of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, as well as a network of physicians and other trial providers nationwide.
The company currently specializes in chronic diseases, especially in cases where there are limited treatments, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosois. It plans to expand into oncology trials.