Startup combines direct primary care and technology

Blue screen for health technology
Forward is betting that direct primary care can go mainstream. Credit: Getty/Pixtum

A couple of veteran techies have launched a primary care practice with a patient experience that's reminiscent of visiting an Apple store—or the set of a sci-fi movie. 

The Forward clinic was started by two entrepreneurs who admittedly know more about technology than medicine but have set out to create a direct primary care practice that provides patients with the latest technology at an affordable cost, according to Fast Company.

As with other direct care practices, the doctors at the company’s San Francisco office don’t take insurance and in this case charge a monthly fee of $149, according to its website.

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The company was started by Adrian Aoun, who ran special projects for Google, and Ilya Abyzov, a former Uber executive. Aoun got the idea for the medical practice after a close relative had a serious cardiac event and went to the emergency room. "The bill was the second heart attack. I couldn't believe that what you pay for is the extra days in the hospital [and] the duplicate tests,” he told Fast Company.

Aoun thought he could do better by giving direct primary a high-tech touch.

So Forward offers members standard medical services along with genetic screening tests, body scanners, wearable sensors, artificial intelligence software and a self-developed electronic medical record system.

The concept is similar to technology-driven primary care group One Medical Group, which has more than 50 practices across the country, but which differs in that it accepts most patients’ insurance.

Forward looks and feels different than a traditional doctor’s office. Patients check in at an iPad station, step into a body scanner to measure weight, pulse oximetry and other metrics, and are given comfortable workout gear to wear during their visit.

The practice also uses medical scribes so doctors can spend more time with patients rather than inputting information into the electronic health record.

Forward is betting that direct primary care can go mainstream, although its current $149 monthly fee is high compared to other direct primary care models that charge in the range of $50-$80 and is more in line with a concierge practice that appeals to wealthier patients. Aoun told Fast Company the price should come down over time.

The clinic also offers medical care for those who cannot afford it: With the help of local organizations and donors, 15% of Forward’s members will be sponsored, according to San Francisco News.