Forward, the San Francisco-based startup that’s looking to refashion healthcare services in Apple’s image, is expanding with its first location in Los Angeles.
Weaving together a number of Silicon Valley’s favorite healthcare trends, the company’s services combine proprietary, purpose-built medical devices with algorithmically enabled diagnostic tools, and the latest in gene, bacteria and blood tests to provide a holistic view of its patients’ health.
These technologies and services include: unlimited access to its medical staff; baseline screening; blood and genetic testing; wellness and nutrition counseling; and ongoing monitoring from wearable sensors provided at the clinic. Support and access to its AI and 24/7 access to medical staff through the app are available exclusively to anyone who’s willing to pay the $149 per month fee.
At its launch, Adrian Aoun told us about 15 percent of its early users come from underserved communities and had received free membership. Members also get their first month of prescription medicine free through Forward’s onsite pharmacy, which also offers vitamins and supplements.
Forward also plans to offer vitamins and other supplements and wearables through the onsite store, and Aoun said he would like to offer other alternatives, such as acupuncture, in the future.
Opening in a small office on the first floor of the Westfield Century City mall, Forward’s Los Angeles office will contain all of the bells and whistles that brought it so much attention when it opened its first San Francisco location in January.
There are custom-built exam rooms kitted up with interactive, touch-screen displays — part of what the company touts as an integrated, paperless system for new electronic health records.
The centerpiece of the company’s facility is a purpose-built body scanner that collects basic vital signs like temperature, pulse and arterial health, which are then sent to the company’s staff doctors.
Those aren’t the only diagnostic tools. The company also has an app and is rolling out services around fertility and sleep tracking, as well as dermatological and optometry services in its two offices.
Once the scans are completed, doctors then review the results of diagnostic tests with their patients in one of those exam rooms, which is also recording the conversation with voice recognition software that targets key words to help retain the key parts of the conversation and examination.
This expansion into Southern California marks the next step in the journey that former Google executive Adrian Aoun first embarked on 18 months ago when he started building out the company’s medical devices and first office in a warehouse in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood.
An early entrepreneur who first came to prominence through his work building natural language processing software that would enable users to create searches for specific topics, Aoun was one of the original architects of Google’s artificial intelligence strategies and the founder of the company’s urban technology subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs.
Aoun’s attention turned to healthcare after his brother had a heart attack, he says, which led him to confront the inadequacies of the existing system.
“The existing healthcare system was not built for you,” Aoun says. “Their incentives are not to actually make you healthy and they’re certainly not to make this cheaper.”
While Forward isn’t necessarily making healthcare cheaper either, it is planting a flag for making healthcare better, Aoun says. And he thinks that’s the first step to changing the whole system.
“It’s absurd to think that the disruption is going to come from the inside,” he says.
The problem for Aoun is that existing healthcare solutions can’t “scale” because treatment depends on highly skilled medical professionals (and there’s a shortage of those these days).
“We need to figure out how to scale doctors so that they touch more lives… The same way an engineer can scale through software,” he says.
Aoun sees Forward as building the tools that other companies can then use to drive down costs and bring to a larger market the solutions his company is developing.
And, he argues, the Forward price tag isn’t all that expensive. “$149 per month is about half the price of a fancy gym,” he says. “We have to start somewhere.”
While Forward doesn’t talk about its financing, it has secured investments from some of Silicon Valley’s marquee investors and entrepreneurs.