Default Health Apps Are Coming

Healthcare is being disrupted, you just can’t see it. Yet.


A year ago I thought it bizarre how we have so many default apps replacing real-world tasks — Yelp for checking restaurant reviews, Tinder for finding a date, Etsy for handmade goods for your sweetie — yet we don’t have decent apps like this for our interactions with healthcare.

Over the last year since starting Prime, though, I realized these apps do exist. Healthcare is being disrupted, you just can’t see it yet.

Consumer services in healthcare are fast being unbundled from the outside:

  • Need a quick immunization for your upcoming trip? Minute Clinic.
  • Need a quick lab test done? Theranos.
  • Need medications delivered regularly? PillPack.
  • Want to know your genetic risk factors? 23andMe.
  • Kid got a fever — want a doctor to swing by and check it out? Pager.
  • … or just a quick video visit? Doctor On Demand.
  • … or just a quick text chat? First Opinion.
  • … or maybe a more general question about yourself? Better.
  • … and maybe just specifically about your skin? Spruce.
  • Moved and need to book an appointment with a new doctor? ZocDoc.
  • Need insight into your sleep? Sleepio.
  • … or your food choices? Lark.
  • … or your blood sugar? One Drop.
  • … or your blood pressure? Hello Heart.

These all could be categorized as solutions that give you the ability to do yourself what previously only physically visiting a doctor could do for you.

There are also plenty of solutions disrupting healthcare by creating wholly new experiences, typically enabled by inflection points in new technologies:

  • Need to coordinate care for family with their actual medical data? Prime.
  • Kids are sneezing; wondering if anything’s going around? Sickweather.
  • Want medication reminders on-the-go? Mango Health.

And healthcare is even increasingly taking on the task of disrupting itself:

  • Want your doctors to do house calls? Medicast.
  • Want another doctor’s opinion on your diagnosis? Figure 1.
  • Want to network with other doctors? Doximity.
  • Want to connect your doctors with diagnostic labs? Health Gorilla.

None of these are household names yet. But they are moving fast.

And I haven’t even mentioned another huge category: the fast-increasing number of solutions available to software developers every day. A quick glimpse: Validic for interfacing with wearables, Bloom to search and compare clinicians, athenahealth to build on their provider data set. But there are so many it really a deserves its own post.

Default apps

I like the idea of default apps — apps that become synonymous with tasks.

When talking about default apps, people often remark on how interesting it is that some technologies become so default they even earn a spot as a verb in our vocabulary. (“Google it.”) What’s more interesting to me is that it’s human nature to want default apps. Our brains don’t handle complexity well so we prefer simplicity. For example, instead of being able to switch between 50 food-finding apps that are each subtly right in different contexts, we just use GrubHub. This is why brand affinity is a thing.

Quickly and surely this is happening in healthcare too. A year ago you could barely see it. Today it’s less hazy; every so often you hear a friend or coworker name one of the companies on this list. Next year, well… more.

There are no market leaders yet. But many of the companies that will become the market leaders in the new healthcare have already been started.

Market leaders will emerge, winners will take all, products will be verbified.