The Google and Uber veterans behind Forward, a new San Francisco health care startup, want to bring their vision for reinventing the doctor’s office to the wider public — so they’re putting it on four wheels.
In January, Forward opened its first concierge clinic in downtown San Francisco. It’s complete with slick tools like iPads to check in patients, biometric-reading body scanners, blood and genetic tests, and giant interactive screens that display your vital signs during visits. Being a Forward member — a $149-a-month commitment that isn’t covered by insurance — also gets you body-monitoring wearables and constant access to doctors and nurses via email and text.
Although Forward’s leaders won’t disclose how many patients have enrolled, they say they’re encouraged by the response and now plan to open up offices in other cities. And to drum up anticipation in those places, Forward has built a popup office: an 11-foot-tall, 18-foot-long, nearly 9-foot-wide mobile trailer.
The trailer will first be on display Wednesday in San Francisco, and will be there for the rest of August and early September before it motors to other cities that the company will reveal on Twitter. “We want to tell the story to more people and help catalyze the conversation around ‘What is health care now? What could health care be?’” cofounder Ilya Abyzov told BuzzFeed News.
Visitors to Forward’s mobile trailer will be able to meet a handful of staff members on board, and try out the body scanner and interactive screen. Some other services — like the blood and genetic tests — won’t be available, though. If they like what they see, they can sign up for a discounted price of $99 a month. Abyzov says the company won’t hang on to any health data from non-customers.
Abyzov was an early Uber employee who was part of launching UberX. Founder and CEO Adrian Aoun previously sold a startup to Google and founded Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s experimental urban-design division. Other founders include Erik Frey, who previously oversaw various artificial intelligence projects at Google, and Rob Sebastian, who led product strategy for several Google projects. Overall, Forward has 80 employees, including six doctors.
Forward has raised $100 million, a person familiar with the situation told BuzzFeed News. A company spokesperson declined to comment.
Forward isn’t comprehensive: It doesn’t cover services like hospitalizations, surgeries, or specialist care. Instead, the company says it focuses on encouraging people to proactively take care of their health, before problems and conditions develop. It bears noting that the people most likely to use Forward are tech-savvy and affluent like its founders, a relatively select group compared to the US population as a whole.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do with Forward is build a health care system that’s something you’re excited about, you’re engaged in, and gets better outcomes,” Abyzov said. “It’s part of that bigger story of why can’t health care be something that’s compelling, that’s beautiful, that’s super well-designed, designed to the same standard that Warby Parker designed their store against?”
Stephanie Lee is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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