Can This Startup Become the Apple of MedTech?

January 23, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Let’s face it — even with all of the advancements in MedTech development, going to the doctor is still not an activity most would consider fun, or even painless. Forward is a startup that wants to revamp your annual medical exam with sleek aesthetics and sharp artificial intelligence (AI).

Moving MedTech Forward

Forward was founded by former Google and Uber employees. It opened its first office development in San Francisco as well as a new location in Los Angeles last November. It thinks of itself as something akin to the Apple Store of medical clinics. Similar to many subscription services, the company charges a $149 monthly fee, regardless of the member’s medical history.

Before starting Forward, Adrian Aoun, the company’s CEO, founded Wavii, a language-processing software company that was acquired by Google for an estimated $30 million in 2013. Afterward, while working in the special-projects division of Google, Aoun began contemplating his own health due to a family history of heart attacks.

Dissatisfied with the current state of medical exams, Aoun decided they were overdue for a revamp. “In the tech industry, we’re pretty used to not accepting the status quo,” he explains. His main method for accomplishing his goal? Bringing disruptive technologies like open data, AI, and IoT from the research labs to a medical clinic you can visit. His concept has taken with the Silicon Valley community; it’s estimated that Forward has raised at least a $100 million in investments.

The Doctor Will See You Now

Upon entering one of Forward’s offices, a body scanner resembling a sci-fi transportation device rests in the corner. In 45 seconds, the scanner deduces your weight, height, and body temperature. It can also deduce information about your heart with its “red light spectroscopy.”

In lieu of a clipboard, doctors utilize a six-foot-long monitor connected to a natural language processor and AI that essentially takes notes of the meeting. Of course, the doctor has the final say and can override the AI’s conclusions. After your check-up, you can review all of your medical data on Forward’s mobile app.

Aoun is also extremely proud to mention that the wait times at Forward’s locations are nonexistent. But as he puts it, “We couldn’t put zero, that just would’ve been odd.” He attributes part of this to adapting based on data analysis: “We’re constantly trying to predict, ‘What is the likelihood this person is going to be late and can we adjust schedules accordingly?’ We don’t enable location tracking, but at some point, the app will dynamically know where you are and know you’re not on time.”

Still a Supplement For Now

While certainly impressive, Forward isn’t meant to be an alternative to health insurance. “There are some people that use this as a replacement (for health insurance plans),” Aoun says. “We strongly don’t recommend it.” For now, Forward’s main objective is to improve the dialogue between patients and doctors through smart use of data. The company plans to open more clinic locations in 2018.

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