A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: A place for health answers.
What: Healia, a Bellevue search engine for health-care information.
How it started: Chief Executive Tom Eng incorporated Healia in March after spending four years developing the technology with a Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Cancer Institute.
Employees: Five. It also contracts a technology developer in Poland and a health librarian in Ohio.
Impetus: As employee health plans shift to decrease costs for employers, employees are taking more responsibility for their health care. That means they need access to good information, Eng said, and the major search engines aren’t helpful because they return millions of results. “If you’re looking for information about a newly diagnosed condition,” he said, “the consequences of finding good, quality information are much more serious” than for other kinds of Web searches.
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Customers: Healia licenses its technology to AARP and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which use it on their Web sites.
Background: Eng, 46, has spent most of his career developing health-related information technology. “I grew up in a poor family without access to health-care information,” he said. His parents immigrated from Hong Kong and worked in sweatshops in New York while raising seven children. “Something like this would have been a godsend to us,” he said.
Current plan: Continue to develop the search engine and raise $1 million to $2 million from angel investors or early-stage venture capitalists.
How it works: Healia’s index of more than 8,000 sites includes sources such as MedlinePlus, a Web site produced by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, and professional groups such as the American Medical Association. Healia uses algorithms to assess the quality and nature of Web content, so it produces fewer but more-relevant results, Eng said. Search results can be tailored to a user’s profile, including age, gender, race, ethnicity and language.
— Kristi Heim