Medical search engine Parzival wants to guide docs to more reliable sources

Parzival co-founders Celina Ansari and Lonnie Rae Kurlander.
Parzival co-founders Celina Ansari and Lonnie Rae Kurlander.

Do you want your doctor to diagnose an ailment by Googling?

A new medical search engine called Parzival is taking the wraps off this week, aiming to guide doctors and medical researchers to the most reliable sources when they’re hunting for information about diseases and treatments.

Parzival’s first focus is the field of emergency medicine, and co-founder Celina Ansari says that about 50 US hospitals have been using an early version of the product. Docs and researchers often “find themselves settling for knowledge, and they shouldn’t have to do that,” says Ansari, a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. “They’re using Google and PubMed — they have seven or eight tabs open to get what they need. There’s no one centralized place to get the right information that’s peer-vetted,” Ansari says.

Parzival wants to tackle that problem, with a content advisory board that reviews sources like wikiEM and FOAMed before they’re included in the site’s meta-search.

The team is mainly based in San Francisco, but co-founder Timothy Peck is chief resident at Beth Israel’s emergency medicine department, and another co-founder, Lonnie Rae Kurlander, took a leave of absence from Boston University’s School of Medicine last November. The fourth co-founder, Glenn Willen, previously worked as a software engineer at Google.

Why would a six-person startup want to take on Google? Kurlander explains, “When any person types a medical condition into Google, you get this very wide-ranging result set. You get papers from 1992, or a discussion forum that is full of herd mentality and fear-mongering. A broad search engine is averaging what the population wants to see, and only a very small portion of those users have specialized knowledge.”

Parzival is currently raising a seed round, and Kurlander says the startup plans to expand from emergency medicine to another 32 medical specialties next. Kurlander wasn’t yet ready to talk about the company’s revenue model, but she said that early users of the search engine work at New York University, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California system.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
Follow Scott on Twitter - Facebook - Google+