Forward is Silicon Valley’s futuristic doctor’s office that looks “like an Apple Store meets ‘Westworld.’“
For $150 a month, it acts as your primary care provider, along with providing some extra perks and technology used with the intent to keep you healthier.
It’s a type of doctor’s office that’s similar to direct primary care, a small but fast-growing movement of pediatricians, family-medicine physicians, and internists. This group doesn’t accept insurance, and instead charges a monthly membership fee that covers most of what the average patient needs, including visits and prescription drugs at much lower prices.
Direct primary care practices are growing at a time when high-deductible health plans are on the rise — a survey in September found that 51% of workers had a plan that required them to pay up to $1,000 out of pocket for healthcare until insurance picks up most of the rest. For more on direct primary care, here’s a snapshot of how it differs from a traditional doctor’s visit.
Forward CEO Adrian Aoun, who formerly worked at Google, didn’t really think about fitting into that DPC model, and doesn’t call what Forward is doing direct primary care.
Instead, he said Forward is to healthcare what the iPhone is to communications. While the Blackberry phone initially gained traction because companies supplied it for their employees, consumers ended up opting to get their own smartphones that were easier to use. In his mind, the existing employer-backed healthcare system is the Blackberry, and Forward’s model is the smartphone.
“We want to rebuild healthcare from the patient’s perspective,” Aoun told Business Insider.
According to Aoun, technology plays a big role in that rebuilding process. It’s a way to”supercharge” doctors, Aoun said, so that they have more time with patients and it’s used effectively.
Forward’s “baseline” appointments — that is, when you first join — run about an hour long. The difference is that he hopes appointments won’t be filled with time-consuming tests. “What we don’t think is it should be spent on ‘dumb things,'” he said.
To take away some of those procedures, you check in with iPads, get scanned using a proprietary all-in-one scanner that looks at your weight, temperature, heart rate and other vital signs, and your history is projected on a screen in the room.
The difference between direct primary care and Forward
In January, Forward launched after raising an undisclosed amount from Khosla Ventures, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Eric Schmidt, and Marc Benioff. The practice charges $150 per month (billed annually), which is higher than the price point for most DPC practices, which have monthly fees that are usually between $50-70, depending on how old you are.
Forward is also offering more perks than a traditional DPC office, including certain fertility services, along with wanting to use a lot of the data you collect from monitors. It also comes with an app that you can use to access your information and doctors, and genetic testing to screen for hereditary cancer risks. Like many direct primary care practices, Forward offers generic prescriptions in-house along with some blood tests.
The practice has also faced the same problems as other direct primary care practices. Aoun said he’s seen a lot of folks swing by the San Francisco office, say it’s awesome, but then almost immediately ask about whether insurance will cover the cost.
It’s similar to what’s happened to Dr. Matthew Abinante, who opened his practice in Huntington Beach, California, in September. Since then, he has had two people call his office to find out more about his practice. When he explained the system, he said, the callers thought it had to be a scam. The misunderstanding about how no-insurance based business models work is one of the biggest hurdles doctors face when starting direct primary care.
But Aoun said he’s optimistic about Forward catching on. The practice is growing pretty well, he said, and he doesn’t have a target for how many patients the first office takes on. The extra variable of technology could make it so the practice could take on a lot more patients than the typical direct primary care practice, which can vary anywhere from 300 to 1,000 patients per doctor.