OpenAI Startup Fund, Arianna Huffington back new AI health coach venture focused on chronic conditions

OpenAI's venture fund and Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global are backing a new startup, Thrive AI Health, that aims to build an AI health coach to promote healthier lifestyles.

The company's mission is to use AI to democratize access to expert-level health coaching to improve health outcomes and "address growing health inequities by bringing the power of behavior change to the urgent challenge of chronic diseases."

The company will be funded by the OpenAI Startup Fund and Thrive Global as lead investors. The Alice L. Walton Foundation also is a strategic investor in the new company, according to a press release.

The initial capital that will be invested was not disclosed.

Thrive AI Health says it has established research partnerships with academic institutions and medical centers that will include bringing the AI Health Coach to their communities. Stanford Medicine, the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine and the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University are initial launch partners.

OpenAI has been expanding its reach in healthcare, including its recent collaboration with Color Health to test out computer-generated personalized care plans for cancer patients.

DeCarlos Love, a product leader who was most recently at Google, also jumped over to the new venture to serve as CEO.

At Google, Love led sensors, AI and ML algorithms as well as health and fitness experiences across devices and platforms, including Fitbit by Google Fitness, Pixel Watch and Wear OS. Love also held product roles at Apple and Athos. 

"Recent advancements in artificial intelligence present an unprecedented opportunity to make behavior change much more powerful and sustainable," Love said in a statement. "AI has shown a remarkable ability to assimilate large datasets, extract actionable insights, recognize patterns, and deliver personalized recommendations. However, despite these technological advances, the current landscape of large language models (LLMs) still falls short of delivering a truly comprehensive and effective personalized behavior change and coaching experience."

The Thrive AI Health Coach product is intended to solve the limitations of current AI and LLM-based solutions by providing personalized, proactive and data-driven coaching across five daily behaviors, Love said.

Thrive AI Health uses generative AI to give users personalized advice on sleep, food, fitness, stress management and "connection." 

"This is how it will improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare costs and significantly impact chronic diseases worldwide," he said.

In an op-ed in Time, Sam Altman, OpenAI co-founder, and Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, wrote that the AI health coach will be available as a mobile app and also within Thrive Global’s enterprise products. Thrive Global works with more than 200 employers to offer its behavior change tech platform.

The company aims for its technology to be used as a tool for both prevention and optimizing the treatment of disease through an AI personal context engine that understands the user and generates personalized AI-driven insights. Users will receive "proactive, multimodal, expert-level coaching as well as nudges and recommendations unique to each user across the five behaviors," the company said in the press release.

The foundation for the technology will be a unified health data platform, and the Thrive AI Health Coach will be trained on the latest peer-reviewed science, biometric, lab and other medical data as well as users' personal preferences and goals around the five key daily behaviors, the company said. 

Thrive AI Health Coach aims to use AI-driven health coaching to reach underserved communities. Gbenga Ogedegbe, M.D., professor of population health and medicine and director of NYU Langone's Institute for Excellence in Health Equity, will serve as health equity adviser to Thrive AI Health. 

The new company will leverage resources from OpenAI and Thrive Global, including Thrive Global's behavior change methodology, Microsteps and content library.

Thrive AI Health says it also will use the latest developments in AI, including enhanced long-term memory capabilities and a custom-developed behavioral coaching model with domain-specific customization, to empower individuals to take action across five daily behaviors, executives said.

In the Time op-ed, Altman and Huffington wrote that AI-driven personalized behavior change can help finally reverse the trend lines on chronic diseases.

"So much of the conversation around AI has been about how much time it will save us and how productive it will make us. But AI could go well beyond efficiency and optimization to something much more fundamental: improving both our health spans and our lifespans," Altman and Huffington wrote. "Because health is also what happens between doctor visits. In the same way the New Deal built out physical infrastructure to transform the country, AI will serve as part of the critical infrastructure of a much more effective health care system that supports everyday people's health in an ongoing way. These are some of the ideas behind Thrive AI Health."

In the U.S. alone, around 90% of $4.1 trillion in healthcare spending—17% of GDP, up from 5% in 1960—is for the treatment of chronic and mental health conditions. An estimated 129 million Americans have at least one chronic condition, and, in 2023, eight chronic conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, depression and diabetes, hit all-time highs.