San Francisco health startup Forward recently opened its first medical clinic promising a look at the gadget-filled, AI-driven, doctor's office of the future.
Resembling something that looks more like an Apple store than a traditional doctor's office, Forward proposes an entirely different approach to healthcare, with unlimited access to the clinic's medical resources through a single monthly membership fee.
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Upon arriving at a Forward clinic, members sign in on an iPad and enter a custom-designed body scanner. The device immediately processes a variety of biometric data which can be accessed by members through an app on their phone.
Things get even more futuristic when you move into the clinic's exam rooms. Faced with a giant touch screen display on the wall integrating your medical history and recent biometric data, the doctor can discuss any imminent healthcare issues while an AI system monitors the conversation and instantly displays notes and suggested treatment plans.
As well as developing its own diagnostic AI systems, Forward has designed several new proprietary medical tools, such as a wireless digital stethoscope that can detect a heart beat over clothes and a handheld infrared light that highlights veins to help the process of taking blood.
A variety of associated wearables that connect up to Forward's app are supplied to members, and they have 24/7 access to medical staff and real-time AI oversight of their health data.
The monthly membership to Forward is designed to shift a member's focus on healthcare to prevention. CEO and Founder Adrian Aoun sees the monthly membership fee as one that hopes to move the relationship with one's health away from the traditional transactional nature of paying to see a doctor when sick.
He admits that the current rate of US$149 per month is not cheap but hopes the technology can be made cheaper over time so this form of healthcare is, "not just for the kinds of people who are fortunate enough to be in a position to spend money for better health." Aoun also notes that 15 percent of early memberships are being offered for free to those from underprivileged communities who cannot afford healthcare.
Forward is certainly an interesting new take on the future of healthcare and it is clear that AI generated diagnostic assistance will become more useful as data-processing software grows more sophisticated. But this form of medical care is not intended to be a replacement for general health insurance. Serious chronic medical care or instances requiring hospitalization do not really fit into this system. While a membership fee to cover general preventative healthcare is an interesting proposal it doesn't offer the same safety net of traditional health insurance.
This isn't the first attempt to seriously integrate modern technology into the healthcare process it is by far the most comprehensive we've seen. With significant investment backing from the likes of Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google and Garrett Camp, co-founder of both Uber and StumbleUpon, Forward appears strongly resourced to set the template for how we could offer more technologically integrated healthcare systems in the 21st century.
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