MedNetworks Connects with $5M from Excel Venture Management

Social networks have been growing in popularity among patients and doctors in recent years as a means to share and gather important information from their peers. Now MedNetworks, a Newton, MA-based startup, has nailed down $5 million in a Series A funding round from Excel Venture Management to commercialize technology that makes data generated from social networks more useful for stakeholders in healthcare.

MedNetworks spun out of the Harvard University lab of Nicholas Christakis, the co-author of a 2009 book called Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. The company, which has an exclusive license to uses of Christakis’s technology in the healthcare sector, is developing analytics software that identifies patterns of influence in information networks. Its customers are expected to include drug companies, health plans, and hospitals. Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans of Boston-based Excel Venture Management have joined the board of directors.

Perhaps it’s a sign that social networks could become an integral part of the healthcare landscape when venture capitalists fund a startup with technology to analyze the phenomenon. Drug companies are already paying to access data and other insights from users of social networking sites such as Sermo, the country’s largest social network for physicians, and PatientsLikeMe, which has online communities of patients. Both Sermo and PatientsLikeMe are based in Cambridge, MA.

With its analytics technology, MedNetworks appears to be positioning itself as the brains of such social networks. The company says its analytics software will enable its customers to map social networks, rank the influence of individuals in those networks, and track the strength and formation of connections among people in networks. Supposedly, the firm’s software could show a drug company, say, which social networking sites offer the best venue to promote certain products, as well as who are the most influential users in those social networks.

“While the applications for the social network analysis models coming out of the Christakis Lab are extraordinarily broad, healthcare offers an excellent starting point,” Larry Miller, MedNetworks’s CEO, in a statement. “It’s a sector where data are often available, but not always used effectively.”

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