San Francisco start-up Forward is betting its hands-on—and very digital approach—to treating patients will help to carve out a niche for the new company in the emerging market for personalized and concierge-style healthcare.
Founded by CEO Adrian Aoun, who previously worked as director of special projects for Google, Forward is attempting to shift the traditional healthcare model away from immediate and reactive care to proactive care through the use of technology and artificial intelligence.
Google acquired Aoun’s first start-up, Wavii.com, in 2014 in a $30 million deal. Wavii became the hub of Google’s artificial intelligence business unit to develop more natural language and personal assistant technologies such as voice-activated search queries for the Google search engine.
Now Aoun is turning his attention to digital healthcare. Patients visiting Forward’s flagship San Francisco clinic for the first time undergo an automated body scan that captures their temperature and vital signs in less than a minute. Clinicians also perform real-time, blood tests onsite with results in 12 minutes, as well as genetic testing.
Results of the body scan, blood and genetic tests are downloaded to Forward’s electronic health records system enhanced with artificial intelligence to provide doctors with a full picture of the patient’s health that can be used as a baseline for developing an ongoing preventive health plan, Aoun says.
The clinic is currently staffed by four full-time physicians trained in internal or family medicine that previously worked at either Stanford Hospitals, Sutter Health, or Kaiser Permanente. Patients can go to the Forward clinic for primary care, men’s and women’s health, travel vaccines, skin care, and nutrition and health coaching. The clinic also has an onsite pharmacy that dispenses common generic medications at no cost to the patient.
“Forward offers a data-driven, preventative approach to healthcare,” Aoun says. “With Forward’s artificial intelligence system and wearable sensors, members can have an ongoing relationship with their healthcare provider and achieve better health and awareness over time, rather than only receiving circumstantial, transactional treatment for illness.”
Forward charges a $149 monthly membership fee that is billed annually and paid out-of-pocket by the patient. Members with a health savings or flexible spending account can use them to pay their annual fees.
Patient data gathered at the clinic can be downloaded to Forward’s mobile app that provides patients access to their care plans, laboratory and genetic results, and historical health issues. Personal conversation with a Forward physician is downloaded to the app, Aoun says. Patients can also use the app to engage their physician with follow-up questions. Conversely, Forward staff can push reminders to patients about upcoming appointments, referrals and prescriptions.
Forward was not launched as a replacement to traditional health plans, but rather as a supplement. “Forward members would still need insurance for things like unusual labs that need to be processed offsite, medications that need to be filled by a pharmacy, and specialist care outside of Forward,” Aoun says.
If a member needs a specialist Forward will help them find an appropriate, cost-effective option and coordinate scheduling an appointment on the member’s behalf, the company says.
In addition to treating patients that can afford its services, Forward provides free memberships to patients in need of financial assistance, which the company says is now about 15% of total enrollment. The company didn’t break out further enrollment metrics.
“This ties back to Forward’s mission to deliver better health to people at a lower cost,” Aoun says. “Forward’s first location is in San Francisco, but the goal is to scale for the masses.”Favorite