With bare white walls and simplistic furniture, the office of Forward, a San Francisco-based healthcare startup, looks more like a trendy Silicon Valley marketing firm than a place to find care.
Forward was founded by Adrian Aoun, an entrepreneur with successful projects in AI and city planning under his belt. With a history of trying new ideas in a variety of industries, it’s no surprise that Aoun has now focused his attention on the healthcare system, still undergoing a vast data revolution.
Unlike some of the other healthcare ideas that I’ve talked about, Forward is a big idea on a small scale. The clinic makes use of the latest in biometric scanners, wearable devices, and blood analysis to create a physiological profile of all of its patients that staff can update over time. Aoun has stated that his intentions for the company are to create a medical facility that learns and grows with its patients.
Lately, I’ve been very vocal about the use of wearable devices to improve patient engagement, and Forward seems to wholeheartedly subscribe to the mindset that more data means increased understanding for doctors and patients alike. Each patient is issued a device after their first appointment to relay information to care professionals and catch anomalies as early as possible.
Instead of paying based on visits or care received, Forward works much like a subscription service—for $149 a month, patients can receive access to all of the clinic’s services. It’s certainly the kind of service that improves the longer an individual uses it. Aoun has stated that part of Forward’s purpose is to improve the doctor-patient relationship, creating a lasting connection rather than simply providing a place for individuals to go for minor sicknesses or injuries. He also mentioned that Forward is focused more on chronic conditions that will need to be dealt with on a regular basis.
Aoun’s goal is to provide more a more comprehensive approach to healthcare at a lower price, but will it pay off? Though Forward does not accept insurance and the monthly pricetag may discourage potential patients, he has expressed a desire to make the clinic more easily accessible to the underprivileged, offering 15% of early memberships free or subsidized for relevant communities. However, Aoun is not the only competitor looking to improve the healthcare market, and faces competition from startups such as Oscar Health and One Medical.
Still, with Forward and other services looking to streamline healthcare, we’re in uncharted territory, so it’s nearly impossible to say which approach will prove to be the best. Aoun theorizes that existing inefficiencies in healthcare start with outdated systems that causes doctors to use their time inefficiently. With doctors estimated to spend half of their time filling out paperwork, Forward incorporates automated systems that compile the data collected on site, establishing a health “baseline” for patients that can easily be monitored without the need to continually update paper forms.
Despite criticisms that Forward’s approach only amounts to incremental changes in the healthcare model, Aoun is optimistic about the business that he is building.
“We are going to try to build the operating system for healthcare,” he said.
Though Forward has only recently opened, Aoun is hoping to serve 10,000 patients in the clinic and expand beyond Silicon Valley, an effort that would require the current clinic to perform well after its opening.
Until we see how well Forward does in the marketplace, it’s worth considering as an enterprise that’s trying something different in an often stagnant industry.