TRUE-See and the future of telemedicine

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 11, 2014

From The News Desk

The idea of yet another photo-editing and sharing app elicits major eye rolls in Silicon Valley. It has become the ubiquitous catch-all for “unoriginal copycat idea.” We remark with shock when a new photo sharing app like Frontback manages to get any traction or hype at all.

But in the non-consumer space, it turns out that photo editing and sharing apps could be revolutionary. That’s the hope of TRUE-See, an early stage company that pitched at Southland today.

TRUE-See built a technology that color corrects and calibrates medical photos so doctors know what they’re looking at. They don’t have to worry that the size or color of, say, a flesh wound appearing differently on different screens. TRUE-See boils it all down to a standard system.

“Are you building a better mousetrap or are you building something that doesn’t exist?” TRUE-See CEO Bill Ellison told PandoDaily before he pitched on stage. “We think we’re building something in the healthcare market that doesn’t exist yet.”

The company plans to partner with Electronic Health Record companies, and already has one such organization — Net Health — licensing the technology. Fun fact: It also has already the Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office as a customer too. “Our product is applicable to any industry where the quality of the picture matters,” Ellison says.

At the pitch competition, the judges looked less than impressed. Perhaps they’re just losing their pizzazz on the final day, but their questions weren’t exactly inspired and none gushed about the potential of the market the way they had with companies the prior day. They asked about whether TRUE-See would be a stand-alone app and whether it’s a reimbursable expense for a payer. One judge finally said, “Changing physician behavior is a hard thing. Do they see a need for this?” The judges’ reticence resulted in Sarah Lacy stepping in to do a mini-sell on why she thought TRUE-See was compelling.

“It’s the potential to open up a market,” Lacy said. “With something like this, telemedicine gets opened up in a way it can’t be now because people don’t know what they’re looking at.” She told the story of her eldest son Eli hurting himself last week. She didn’t want to traumatize him by dragging him to the ER if he didn’t need stitches, but her doctor couldn’t make that judgment call based on pictures of the wound. “No one could tell because they were like, ‘I can’t tell from that picture what’s actually happening,’” Lacy said. “It’s the digital equivalent of every time doctors are at cocktail parties and they say, ‘Can you look at this thing real quick?’ That’s what they’re enabling.”

TRUE-See fits squarely in a chain of technology companies that are applying traditional consumer focuses to the medical industry. There’s also Doximity, which is like Facebook for doctors to network and securely share patient information and Figure1 which is like Instagram for doctors to surf latest medical images and learn from other practitioners. In this case, TRUE-See is like the photo filter app you might download to use in addition to Instagram for color correcting.

But Ellison and co. may have an uphill battle to face in finding funding. If the Southland pitch session was any indication, it’s a hard sell to convince investors not in the medical profession why color correcting for doctors matters. The final question the judges asked Ellison was what his mediocre superpower as an entrepreneur would be. “I want to be able to look at someone and they automatically know everything I know about TRUE-See and the market and I don’t have to spend three hours pitching it and I would get funded.”

[image via NetHealth]