App-based startups point the way toward a preventive model of healthcare

Heartbeat is a startup created in New York by a group of young cardiologists from Columbia University, carrying out the transition from reactive cardiovascular healthcare, which acts when symptoms of a possible disease arise, to a proactive approach based on preventing those symptoms from appearing.

Founded in 2016, the company has raised $2.5 million of venture capital and already has a couple of clinics open in the Big Apple — with plans to open several more — using a combination of digital technologies, medical tests and specialized advice. The idea is initially to use patient data generated through a combination of wearables such as Fitbit or Apple Watch and online diagnostic questionnaires with a follow-up hospital visit for electrocardiograms, stress tests, etc. to corroborate any worrying results. The Heartbeat team will also help patients to interpret the results of their wearables correctly and prescribe diets and physical exercise routines to monitor the cardiovascular health of patients who can either fund it through their health insurance, an annual fee of $299, or by paying $200 per visit.

Other companies with similar ideas, such as Forward, described by Time magazine as one of the best ideas of 2017, will also monitor cancer risks, using different genetic tests for possible preventive diagnoses, in this case outside medical insurance and with a cost of $1.49 a month. Created two years ago by Adrian Aoun, who sold his natural language processing startup, Wavii, to Google, the initiative has already attracted more than one hundred million investors, has opened a clinic in Los Angeles and plans to expand to other US cities.

One Medical’s approach is also related, and operates in eight cities. Valued at more than $1 billion thanks to the more than $200 million invested by Alphabet, among others, it aims to cut medical spending by 10% thanks to the use of easy-to-use and efficient technology. A rate of between $149 and $199 per year provides consultations through email, smartphone prescriptions, access to a wide range of specialists via the web, and clinics that look more like a boutique than a clinic.

In short, a set of approaches that point in the same direction: an evolution toward a concept of preventive health in which technology is used not only to carry out diagnoses based on a greater number of measurements, but also for other processes, while making the best use of administrative processes. This new generation of companies will be replicated in other countries as technology makes it easier to obtain more and better diagnoses that, although it might not match the precision of hospital devices, does allow for preventive therapies, as well as providing research material. As medical insurance establishes that proactive health management can be more profitable than the merely palliative, the future of medicine and healthcare in general clearly points in that direction.


(En español, aquí)