By Natalie Saar, a contributor of the Underground Group
Healthcare company Forward lets users chat with doctors 24/7 through an app for a flat monthly fee, bringing the subscription model to healthcare.
The company aims to cut medical costs by helping users focus on preventative care.
Forward’s mission and subscription model are worth studying, as they can inform business plans across industries.
The doctor’s office of the future: That’s what Adrian Aoun sought to create when he started medical company Forward in 2015. Forward aims to revolutionize doctor visits by combining common patient needs, preventative wellness and technology.
In Forward’s app, users can book appointments, chat virtually with a doctor and get test results in a few taps. They can visit Forward’s brick-and-mortar locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles both for preventive care and if they’re sick. (Depending on the diagnosis, a Forward professional may suggest visiting a specialist afterward.) Forward also offers women’s health screenings, genetic testing and travel vaccines.
Forward users can get genetic testing at Forward’s brick-and-mortar doctors’ offices. (credit: Instagram/goforwardhealth)
“Imagine a doctor’s office that looks and feels more like an Apple Store,” Aoun, a former Google employee, told TechCrunch last year. “But go a step further and you’ve got this … cool thing where you’ve got the doctor’s office that kind of learns over time. You’ve got something that gets better over time as it learns more and more about you, almost like everything else we are used to, like Google and Facebook.”
Aoun has focused on changing the conversation around healthcare ever since someone close to him survived a heart attack. Through Forward’s use of technology and real-time results, Aoun’s goal is for doctors and patients to think about healthcare differently, becoming less reactive to their health and more receptive to a proactive approach.
Forward wants patients to have a personalized relationship with a doctor while managing an ongoing preventative plan for their health through the app. Forward provides real-time access to a doctor for health concerns, as well as customized exercise and nutrition plans. Forward users can contact their doctors via phone any time, without limitation.
Forward users can text their doctors anytime. (credit: Instagram/goforwardhealth)
A Forward subscription costs a $149 per month. For this fee, customers have access to their assigned doctors, their medical records and a suite of medical tools on the app.
Many customers are familiar with this model, as subscription-based services have been “the future” for several years. But this kind of healthcare subscription is essentially a new category, and it’s likely future companies similar to Forward will grab a slice of the economics.
For now, Forward is meant to be used in tandem with a health insurance plan. Forward’s monthly services should be considered an additional product that allows users round-the-clock access to a doctor and insights into their health status while staying on their insurance plans. Ideally, users won’t need to visit specialists as often thanks to Forward’s preventative care, which will ultimately save them money.
Forward’s body scanner can help users identify health problems before they show symptoms. (credit: Instagram/goforwardhealth)
Any business that stores, collects, maintains or transmits personal health information needs to adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It’s up to Forward to protect patients’ information. But the sharing of information is up to the patient’s discretion. For example, if a user found out at via Forward that they had kidney stones and needed an operation, they could choose to share that information with a hospital, which would require health insurance in order to treat them.
Forward’s challenge is setting itself apart in the restrictive, compliance-heavy healthcare industry.
“There are already places like [Forward’s product] called wellness centers, where you can go in and check your overall, general health,” says Dr. Steven Saar, director of medical affairs at a Florida-based healthcare company.
Nevertheless, it’s likely that the market for app- and subscription-based health services will expand, Saar said.
In this era of the “quantified self” (see Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc.), this has likely never been more true.
“There are a lot of people out there that want to keep track of what’s going on with their bodies,” Saar told Grow Wire. “[Good Forward candidates are] anybody who just wants to maintain their health as they get older so they can be in tune with anything environmental, like stress levels, without having to go through the rigmarole of seeing a doctor. This is an easy way to do it.”
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