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What $100 Million Buys in Healthcare Today

Dana Corriel, MD comments about Forward's recent $100 million series E raise and the "doc in a box" they plan to build (and shares others' reactions)

December 8, 2023

What would you do with a $100 million infusion of cash investment?

Well, a healthcare company many of us have already heard of – called Forward – has had exactly that. And they’re sharing with us exactly what they plan to do with that wad.

As a physician who has not only practiced medicine behind the closed doors of a primary care office, but has also dabbled in the digital space for quite a number of years now, I’m not surprised at what’s coming. But I’m scared.

You can read the specifics of what Forward plans to build according to its CEO, Adrian Aoun, in the Forbes article that recently covered it.

I read about this “advancement” there, and was, as I already mentioned, horrified.

I’m certainly not one to shy away from innovative ventures, or new ways to dole out care (lord knows, we sure need change!), but this particular plan is just odd.

 

I'm certainly not one to shy away from innovative ventures, or new ways to dole out care (lord knows, we sure need change!), but this particular plan - Forward's 'doc in a box' - is just odd. Click To Tweet

 

Not only does it turn us into machines, promoting assembly-line medicine, but it also costs a small fortune, coming in at $99/month.

Our future isn’t looking too bright (though it’s plenty bright for the business that owns this!).

When I posted about this on my social media account, I tagged Katie Jennings, the author of the Forbes article, who I hoped would consider writing a follow-up article that included the candid responses of real physicians who have practiced medicine and know that this is “all about the $$$” (cue Cuba Gooding, Jr’s Rod Tidwell; a la “Show me the money!!”)

 

"Our future isn’t looking too bright (though it’s plenty bright for the business that owns this!)."

 

Here’s some of the share-worthy responses I received on my post:

“Healthcare delivery models will keep evolving and will include tech and AI, one way or the other. We need to embrace this change and facilitate adoption in best possible way for our patients. Healthcare practices and systems are not immune from being bottom line centric. In that respect it’s all fair game.”

Me: right. I’m all for forward-thinking solutions.

But to essentially remove all significant overhead (and by that I’m not only referring to ancillary staff, but to minimizing of the space involved to administer care) and replace it with a machine, and then charge more than what most DPC practices across the country charge, doesn’t seem like it’s the right step. If we’re automating and taking away a lot of the personalization here, shouldn’t things be getting cheaper?

To which he replied:

“Yes, of course, things should be getting cheaper. Market might drive that (e.g., Sesame model). Our traditional models have been failing us so far in this respect.”

“Absolutely terrifying…. How can I get one?? 🤣”
Me: right? They’re going to be offering these as an in-home upgradeable option shortly.. and certainly for 10 “easy” payments of no less than $100K.

 

“What sort of idiot doctor would work for them?”

Me: I mean, I assume anyone who wants to make money working from home, and is willing to take a pay cut in exchange for more time home. That said, at $99/mth per patient, that’s a hefty revenue stream, if they get enough takers. They could actually be paying doctors decent wages.

That said, they also have the option of hiring out non-physicians to dole out care here, to further keep costs down and maximize profits.

Will be interesting to see how this nightmare/innovation (depending on which team you’re on) unfold..

 

A short break, for a 1:26 minute recorded commentary on this:

“So scary.
Even more that they raised that much.”

Me: well, nowadays, it seems like you need gobs of money to make anything really take off. The scary part is when companies fail, and these amounts end up having been wasted…

As many of us already know, in healthcare, there is a lot of waste. In a 2019 JAMA article, for example, the estimated cost of waste in the US health care system ranged from $760 billion to $935 billion, accounting for approximately 25% of total health care spending.

This is different, of course, from private sector spending, and the raising of capital in order to fuel advancements. If money is lost here, it will have been lost from the pockets of big-time investors, in this case, chomping at the bit to get front row seats for today’s next health innovation. The question for them (and us) is simply, is this going to succeed?

 

 

“As a health care professional, I feel the best defense against the rising tide of AI is added benefit: Machines cannot be compassionate or caring. We need to strive to recognize our patients as fellow humans and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Me: agreed. We need to figure out what advancement will actually work and then integrate it with the real needs of patients.

 

Vinod Dasa MD

(Orthopedic Surgeon, Vice Chair, Researcher, Entrepreneur, Innovator, Consultant)

“This may cut into the urgent care in person business vs patients “cheating” on their pcp.”

 

Me: good point.

That said, I can’t imagine ppl coughing up (no pun intended) $99 a month just for a machine supplement. Not when you can purchase a telehealth visit from Costco for $30.

Healthcare’s becoming quite an interesting space, I tell you…

 

“I wonder if they will order all charts for review?”
Me: There’s no way. And what a great point to raise!!
This actually brings up an important issue with these boxes. This model resembles an urgent care, where charting may not be a priority, and certainly not for the purpose of continuity of care. So what happens with people who would otherwise benefit from the pulling together of records? Do these boxes work, for example, with existing EHR (Electronic Health Records) service providers? If so, does it pull in necessary data and does the machine and/or provider assigned to the box actually engage in a 30,000 foot view diagnosis (rather than immediate, symptom relief care)?
“Do not be concerned. That AI in the box will never hold a patient’s hand, understand their anxiety and concerns, or in the end be able to really get them to trust that they know what they’re doing. Machines are not human and humans hopefully will never be machines.”
Me: I wholeheartedly agree.
I worry, however, about the false sense of security that patients will have in these boxes.
I worry about increasing anxiety and depression levels in a population that’s already disconnected (because of things like shortened health visits, coupled with social media use) and will now have this cold machine to contend with..

 

“Alarming development! This tech turns healthcare into an assembly line, prioritizing profits over genuine patient care.”
Dana Corriel, MD

Dana Corriel, MD

“I haven’t LEFT medicine, I’m simply taking time to tackle its issues from a different angle. I’m stepping out of the traditional medicine box.”

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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