Dr. Tom Jones was teaching medicine at the University of Chicago in the 1980s when he first realized that information technology could revolutionize health care.
As computer networks changed the way he communicated with students, it became clear they also could improve the handling of medical information, he said.
"I got involved in an early version of electronic medicine," Smith said. "I saw how much easier this is."
Today, he's chief medical officer at Tolven Inc., a Sonoma startup that helps doctors, hospitals and patients put medical records online.
Tolven received $3.6 million in venture capital in the fourth quarter last year, its first round of venture funding since launching the business in 2006.
Tolven is one of a dozen Sonoma County tech companies that raised more than $200 million from investors in 2010.
The county's venture funding total was down from $312 million in 2009, but private equity remains a growth driver for early-stage companies.
For Tolven, the investment means hiring employees, improving software and expanding its medical records platform. The startup has 16 employees and plans to add four more this year.
It's also a validation of Tolven's technology, which allows the secure entry, storage and sharing of medical records by patients, doctors and other providers.
The records can include medication lists, medical history, lab results, immunization records and doctors' instructions.