What’s your body score? — Full Transcript

Understanding certain biomarkers is the first step to living a healthier life


How can we better understand the numbers behind our health? Tim Davenport, CEO of Consumable Science, explains how behavior change starts when all individuals get access to the fundamental science behind biomarkers.

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Key takeaways from this episode of StartUp Health NOW can be found here.

Unity Stoakes: [0:05] Welcome to “StartUp Health Now,” the weekly web show that celebrates the healthcare transformers and change‑makers that are reimagining health care. My name’s Unity Stoakes, and we’re here at Health Datapalooza in Washington, DC.

[0:18] I’m very excited to have a great conversation today with Tim Davenport, the CEO of Consumable Science. Tim is an amazing entrepreneur who’s the former president of Revolution Health, and also the CEO of SERMO, so stick around. We’re going to have a great discussion and a great show. Thank you.

[0:36] [music/voiceover introduction]

Unity: [1:14] Welcome, Tim. It’s wonderful to have you here. We’re here at the Health Datapalooza Conference here in Washington, DC. I’m so excited to meet you and so excited to learn about Consumable Science, so thanks for being here.

Tim Davenport: [1:29] Thank you for having us.

Unity: [1:31] Just to kick things off, what is Consumable Science? Maybe you could share the mission and vision for the company.

Tim: [1:36] Our core match mission is based on some new research that’s being done that we’re sponsoring. It’s being done by a group of scientists out of Johns Hopkins. These researchers are experts in biomarkers. We have a basic thesis that there’s an unmet need in the health marketplace that can be met by helping people better understand their core set of biomarkers, how it affects their health, and what they can do to be healthier.

Unity: [2:02] What’s missing in the market? What’s needed to really make people healthier and understand these biomarkers?

Tim: [2:11] One situation we like to describe, because it connects with a lot of people, it helps them to understand the need we’re trying to meet, is for people who have had a blood test, gone to a doctor, typically that experience involves three pages of 80 different values. They don’t understand what all of the data means. The doctor probably only explains if you have a problem.

Unity: [2:33] Sometimes they don’t even ever see that.

Tim: [2:35] They don’t even see the data, and our basic view is there’s a lot of information in those biomarkers that’s being lost and not shared with the patient, and that’s to…

[2:44] [crosstalk]

Unity: [2:45] Is the concept then, and we’ll dig into some detail here, but is this a service for consumers, or for doctors? Who’s really using the service, and who’s the customer?

Tim: [2:59] Our focus is on individuals, but it has such broad applicability, we’re finding that a lot of people are interested in what we’re doing and trying to figure out how they might use it.

[3:08] But the core of this, we want to be key to patient engagement. We think this is a way for people to fundamentally better understand their health and to get started thinking about how their behaviors going to improve their health over time. That’s a pretty big idea.

Unity: [3:21] It is. We know all sorts of information about how our cars operating, or how our bank account’s doing or our stocks are doing, but not enough about how we are doing as people. Is that really what you’re…

[3:38] [crosstalk]

Tim: [3:39] That’s right on it, and what we have learned from our first wave of science, and our science is going to ongoing, is that there are really seven key biomarkers that we think accurately capture your biological signature, your profile if you will, and taken together, give you a very accurate picture of your current health and a forecast of your future health.

[4:04] It’s very different than just getting a cholesterol number. It’s getting a combination of your cholesterol number with six other biomarkers, and understanding, or at least us giving you a picture of how they correlate and add up to your overall health.

Unity: [4:10] You have designed a health score. Talk to us a little bit about what that is and how it works.

Tim: [4:18] It’s called “My Body Score,” and again it’s based entirely on the science of biomarkers. The way it works is we’re taking advantage of some exciting new developments in blood testing labs where basically we could take a couple of drops of blood, put them on a piece of paper, put it in a plastic casing, send it to a lab, and a week later, you have My Body Score.

[4:40] My Body Score can be presented simply on a smartphone where you immediately see a score. We put it on a FICO credit score scale to help it connect with the average individual, and then we provide some information about what your seven biomarkers are and how they add up to your score.

Unity: [5:01] Does the consumer go into a lab to get their blood drawn, or do they do this in home? How does this work?

Tim: [5:11] Our starting plan is to actually offer this through employers. A large number of employers are already doing some type of blood screening on site. What we want to do is come in and add a lot more value on top of just getting a single cholesterol number.

[5:27] The way we’re piloting it is to go into employers, have them offer this as a value‑added service on top of an existing blood screening.

Unity: [5:37] I know some doctors today say, “Wow. I’ve already got too much information.” There was recently, I think, a little controversy online with Mark Cuban, who had tweeted that he wanted, and for those who could afford it, get your blood tested quarterly, and keep a record of that so that when you maybe have a problem, you can go into your doctor with a whole dossier of history.

[6:07] How often would people get their blood drawn, and what’s your thoughts on this “too much data” concept?

Tim: [6:18] I don’t think that’s a problem, and I agree with what Mark said. We help solve that in a lot of ways. First of all, we are the product that would collect and have the history of your data. We make it easy to get the data from the lab right into your phone and see your results.

[6:34] We put it into some context for you. Here’s what those results mean in terms of an overall score and what it says about what you could do to be healthier.

[6:41] I think most doctors really welcome the chance to have a patient come in who has some of that data, understands what it means, and is asking some very direct questions. That’s really what we’ve learned in our early pilots.

Unity: [6:55] I fully agree, and I’m part of this quantified‑self movement. The more access as a patient to data information I can get, the better, and as a consumer as well.

[7:09] So first you’re working with employers. Does this get to the point where consumers can pay for this out of their own pocket? How expensive is this?

Tim: [7:21] We think so, yes, and back to your previous question, we think it could make sense to screen once a quarter, again, with a test that only involves a couple of drops of blood. We’re talking about a test that costs $30, so it’s certainly economically feasible to do it several times a year. We’re trying to make that as easy as possible.

Unity: [7:42] An employer armed with this information, or an individual armed with this information, what’s possible? What can they start to do with it?

Tim: [7:54] We’ve piloted this with a handful of employers so far. We’re learning a lot. We see three very key benefits.

[8:03] First of all, for individuals who have had blood tests in the past like we described a minute ago, for them there’s a bit of a eureka moment. “Wow, I knew there was a lot of information in those results. I never saw it or understood it. Now I start with a score that basically tells me how am I doing against the rest of the population. Mine’s 70th percentile, or the 20th percentile.”

[8:25] From the context setting of an overall score, then here are the seven key biomarkers and some education about how they work together and what they mean for your health. For individuals who understand a blood test and had it before, that’s very powerful.

[8:39] We’re also finding there’s a lot of people that haven’t been to the doctor in five years, younger people. A typical 30‑year old may not even have a doctor yet, and for them this is an effective health checkup. If you’re not feeling bad, there’s no reason to go to the doctor, but it can be very valuable to see this data and understand.

[8:55] If everything’s good, you’re fine. If you have a value that’s looking a little out of line, you should be aware of it. You’d see it in your score, and you might then go into doctor and ask them about it.

Unity: [9:05] It becomes like an early warning system.

Tim: [9:06] Exactly. A critical value tells you you have something to keep an eye on.

[9:09] Then third, there’s a lot of benefit to the sponsors, who may offer this to individuals, an employer, because we can go and then give them some population data, which we’re finding is very exciting.

[9:19] If a 1,000‑person company had 800 people screened, we can go back in and show them what the average health is of their workforce, how that compares to the population at large. They’ve never had anything like that. It’s very valuable to compare that, looking at claims data, which they’ve often done in the past. “Here’s a current snapshot of how healthy your workforce is.”

[9:40] Then further, we’re able to use the science to help you understand where you have some unhealthy populations. Do you have more smokers than usual? Do you have more people with a diabetic risk than average? We see early evidence this is going to help employers better target their wellness programs, where they’re already spending a lot of money.

Unity: [9:58] How have you dealt with any issues around privacy? Maybe individuals are concerned about their employer having access to this data. Has that come up?

Tim: [10:09] It’s critically important, and our starting point with the technology is to build a very sophisticated backend that’s completely secure and enables the data to be kept very private.

[10:20] One of our tenets that we communicate to individuals is “No one will see this data but you. You can choose to let other people see it, but only you will see it, and it stays with you for the rest of your life. If you change employers, it is your account, it is your My Body Score. It goes with you wherever you go.”

[10:37] Absolutely, privacy is important, and we’ve made a big investment to deliver that.

Unity: [10:43] Wonderful. Shifting gears just a little, you’ve had so many wonderful experiences building companies. I’m wondering. You were running Revolution Health, and also SERMO, which I think was one of the early companies that was really shaking things up with a new era of Health 2.0 companies coming into the sector. You guys were really one of the early ones.

[11:10] What’s your take on the market today, how things have evolved over the last decade or so, and where things are going with health innovation, healthcare innovation?

Tim: [11:24] If you go back to Revolution Health, which is now almost 10 years old, a lot of great thought leadership with Steve Case and the team he put together, came up with to make the early investment in Revolution Health. I joined them to run it.

[11:40] There was a lot of good thinking, very inspirational thoughts, around what we can do to really democratize health, to let you take control of your information and better understand your health and be more thoughtful about your behaviors that can improve your health.

[11:54] It’s now almost 10 years later, and the thing that I’m most excited about are new technologies, new businesses that can deliver on that. My Body Score is one of many that I see out there. For me, the most interesting thing that’s developed and that will play out over the next decade is “What are the tools, what are the services, what are the businesses that are really going to fundamentally engage individuals in a way we haven’t done before?”

Unity: [12:18] Do you feel like we’re still at the beginning of this cycle of innovation? How far along the spectrum are we?

Tim: [12:30] I feel like we’re very much in the early ‘90s on the Internet. It’s very much the early days. You could see the potential. The challenge now is to build the real products that connect with people and actually work. I think that’s what we’re on the cusp of.

Unity: [12:42] If you could wave a magic wand and change some of the big challenges that are in the way, either for your particular company or the industry that would help innovation accelerate more quickly, what would your wish be?

Tim: [12:58] There would be a lot.

Unity: [laughs] [13:03]

Tim: [13:04] I think top of the list would be enabling employers, because that’s where the plans are put together, that’s where the money’s being spent, that’s where someone’s overseeing a group of people and hopefully caring about their health.

[13:17] I’d like to see all the things we can put in place to get them out of worrying about the insurance design part of that, and get them to, “Fundamentally, how can I make my people more healthy? How can I enable my people to make themselves more healthy?” That’s what I’d love to make happen overnight.

Unity: [13:32] That’s fantastic. What about advice to entrepreneurs just getting started today? There’s a lot of new talent coming in to the ecosystem from outside of healthcare. What would your words of wisdom be to these upstarts, or even serial entrepreneurs that are coming into healthcare for the first time?

Tim: [13:53] My message would be, “The water’s great. Come on in, especially if you’re a lot younger than I am. We need you.”

[13:59] The lesson to learn, that it’s only to learn its context, and then figure out how you can change it. It’s a very consolidated industry, as we all know. It’s the largest industry in the country. It’s critically important. It’s large, and I think that’s gotten in the way, historically, of fundamental innovation.

Unity: [14:18] Do you think that will begin to be disintermediated or fragmented? Is there a way to go around the established players like has happened in the music industry, or pretty much every other industry where upstarts just reinvent what’s possible? Or in healthcare, do you really have to find other types of collaborations and work within the system?

Tim: [14:39] I think we’ll see both. Certainly some break‑the‑rules new businesses will be great to see and there’s some of them coming online. What I have found is a lot of appetite among the existing players to figure out how to do this better, whether it’s the payers or the providers, or down in the employers, where we’re spending some time right now.

[14:57] People get it. They’re spending a lot of money. People aren’t getting healthier. People want to figure out how to do this better. I think sometimes they’re lacking some innovative new ideas and approaches that might make that happen.

Unity: [15:08] I totally agree on that. I think just when Revolution was starting and SERMO, and our previous company, Organized Wisdom, it was several years early. Now, the last three or four years, you’re starting to see things open up where industry is. Employers are buying, hospitals are buying, insurance companies are changing, and the real industry is starting to look at innovation and experiment, both internally as well as with external innovation, in very exciting ways.

[15:40] I think this is very exciting with what you guys are doing at Consumable Science, and I can’t wait to get My Body Score.

Tim: [15:51] Good.

Unity: [15:52] But just some parting words, what are your predictions for the future, the next couple of years? How optimistic are you? What’s going to happen in healthcare?

Tim: [16:03] One thing I think a lot about is why haven’t we seen more early stage companies go from no revenue to a hundred million dollar revenue in a few years? We saw it decades ago with the Internet. We’ve seen it around social media. I think we’re absolutely going to see it in health.

Unity: [16:24] Zenefits is a good example. They’re not a pure healthcare company, but at least you’re seeing a service‑type model grow quickly.

Tim: [16:30] Right, and I think there’s a whole mindset. Apple’s led this in a lot of industries. Music is a prime example. Interesting how they’re now doing something very innovative in health around the watch.

[16:40] I think a lot of it’s just mindset around “We really are ready to try some very new things. Old things aren’t working so well.” There’s an acceptance of upstart companies that have a tough road ahead of them. They have a lot to prove out, but I think a willingness to help them and play with them, and hope they make it work.

Unity: [16:59] Who do you think the big winners of the future will be in terms of who the big healthcare companies will be? The same players as today, or a complete new deck?

Tim: [17:09] Yeah. I certainly don’t see the big players going away, but I think that we’re going to see whole new types of wellness companies that just fundamentally connect better with what the real health problem is in a population and address it.

[17:24] I think a tool like ours could be helpful there to measure year over year how much progress they’re making. I think we’ve already seen an exciting start to all sorts of things that just engage individuals about their health, fitness trackers, My Body Score, watches.

[17:39] As it happens, it’s hard to figure out who’s going to be the big winner and how it’s going to all sort out. But again, I see the ingredients in place that there are going to be some large companies created from scratch in the next 10 years, and I’m just delighted to be a part of that.

Unity: [17:55] Wonderful. Thank you, Tim, for being here today with StartUp Health Now, and I look forward to getting My Body Score soon, hopefully.

Tim: [18:03] We will do that. Thank you.

Unity: [18:04] Thank you.

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