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8/10/2010
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MedNetworks Bringing Social-Net Analytics To Healthcare

The startup, launched with $5 million in venture funding, aims to help physicians and patients identify "patterns of influence."




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MedNetworks, which will use Harvard University professor Nicholas Christakis' social network analytics research to uncover patterns in health-related behavior, has been launched.

The Newton, Mass.-based firm announced Monday that it will offer pharmaceutical firms, health plans, corporations, and hospitals a first-of-its-kind method for analyzing real-life social networks of physicians and patients and identifying patterns of influence that can help them improve business operations as well as provide a better quality of care.

The company is the brainchild of Christakis, a physician and social scientist who is internationally recognized for his work on social networks and other factors that affect health, healthcare, and longevity. MedNetworks has an exclusive license from Harvard University to use the Christakis technology in the healthcare sector, and the company has raised $5 million in Series A financing from Excel Venture Management.

"For most human phenomena, the power of social influence reverberates through any network -- be it social or professional," Christakis, scientific founder and board member of MedNetworks, said in a statement. "Identifying and harnessing these patterns will fundamentally change the way the healthcare industry understands its providers and patients. This knowledge will empower our clients to leverage existing data to disseminate information and focus interventions more efficiently, rapidly, and effectively."

Among physicians, for example, MedNetworks can map detailed networks in communities, evaluate the number and strength of connections between physicians, identify clusters of practitioners, and discern influence patterns. By applying this analysis to large data sets, MedNetworks creates detailed, actionable information, allowing more efficient and effective use of promotional efforts, company executives said.

Larry Miller, MedNetworks CEO, said healthcare offers an excellent starting point for the social network analysis models coming out of the Christakis lab, and said that while healthcare data is often available, the information has not always been used to its fullest potential.

"For example, we're already turning conventional wisdom on its head regarding pharmaceuticals, proving that current approaches fail to take advantage of critical information about social networks," Miller said in a statement.

"Our analyses indicate that significant influence occurs in social networks beyond high prescribers, so there are advantages to adjusting the focus of promotion. Use of network approaches takes advantage of the 'multiplier effect,' where interventions can have dramatically greater effects as they propagate throughout the networks. The result is a much more efficient, and likely more effective, approach to promotion," Miller added.

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