It’s an experience we’re all too familiar with: the ecru-painted walls, a faux mini-tree in a basket in the corner of the waiting room, and the irate receptionist who wishes we weren’t five minutes late for the appointment, regardless of the thirty-minute wait until the doctor is ready to see us. For years, we’ve generally tolerated inadequate communication, long wait times, and disorganized operations as the woes of our healthcare system—just a part of the package of seeing our primary care physician.
Introducing Forward: a healthcare membership redefining the archaic routine of a trip to the doctor with modern technology focused on preventative care. The startup has reconceptualized how we approach primary care by coupling advanced technology and diagnostics with world-class doctors to identify our biological strengths and weaknesses from the jump, rather than waiting for medical catastrophes to occur.
Founded in 2017 by Adrian Aoun, a former employee of Google, Forward is the brainchild of a Silicon Valley tech pro seeking to solve the medical industry’s shortcomings. Aoun’s family has a history of suffering from heart attacks, which made him worry about his own health. His decision to challenge the industry with technological innovation has paid off, reportedly raising a hundred million dollars of investment.
Members who pay the flat monthly fee of $199 begin their fruitful relationship with Forward with a 75-minute long baseline appointment. A 3-D body scanner uses infrared light to measure height, weight, body temperature, resting heart rate, and blood-oxygen levels under a minute. (You will swear you’ve just stepped onto a creation out of a J.J. Abrams film.) Next, members are ushered into a private exam room that extreme minimalists would be in awe of.
The bare-bones room is punctuated with a wall-to-wall sized flat-screen monitor that not only displays the medical results from the body scan and blood draw (for diabetes markers, liver health, kidney health, and more) in under 12 minutes but also records and takes notes so the doctor can focus on the member’s medical profile, specific needs, and plans for treatment.
My own baseline visit revealed that I’m a picture of health, thanks to a combination of genetic luck, a vegan diet, and minimal vices, but I could push myself harder in the fitness department with a more regimented workout routine. My current stress management practices could use more fine-tuning by perhaps incorporating more mindful meditation.
After the baseline appointment, all the notes are uploaded onto Forward’s mobile app, where members can access their medical records as well as schedule future appointments, locate pharmacies around the globe while traveling, and contact a member of the care team anytime, anywhere. The app allows members to literally become more hands-on about their well-being with real-time updates about their health. In one instance, by remotely monitoring a member’s blood pressure, Forward’s doctors spotted an irregularity that indicated a member was in the early stages of a heart attack, which enabled them to get him life-saving urgent care.
The membership service was created to supplement a health insurance plan, not to replace it. In case of a medical emergency, members will need immediate care only traditional hospitals could provide. One of Forward’s offerings is to work with health insurance providers for specialists within the insurance network. While the program already has in-house specialists who focus on men’s and women’s health and sleep and exercise monitoring, Forward is expanding its specialties to include dermatology and cardiology that will enable members to track and monitor skin lesions and the inner functioning of the heart.
In an interview with Business Insider, Aoun says, “We’re planning on launching more and more services until one day we’re able to perform open heart surgery,” while maintaining the same monthly price for its membership.
Forward’s technological capabilities normalize how we think about our well-being. It pulls all the different pieces of healthcare and turns it into a singular, approachable experience. Typical medical institutions make money based on how often you return, says Forward. Because of the automated procedures that occur back-of-house at Forward, doctors have more time to spend with their patients to assess any health risks and to map a course of preventative treatment. The underlying beauty of Forward is how it opens us up to proactively manage our health over time, rather than treating while we’re already sick. By having a doctor in our pocket at all times, we evolve our understanding of healthy living for our present and future selves, one swipe at a time.
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