Geoffrey Clapp, the co-founder of Health Hero and Rock Health mentor, announced the launch of his new startup, Better. Better, backed by The Mayo Clinic and The Social+Capital Fund, has made a mobile app that taps into the vast database of the Mayo Clinic to provide immediate health care information and assistance. A user has to provide their health history and statistics, and then can ask health related questions on the app, which then provides personalized information based on the patient’s history (as opposed to a Google search, for example, which pretty much always tells you you have cancer!).
So how exactly does it work? MobiHealthNews reports:
The user experience of the Better app begins with â€œSiri for healthcareâ€, Clapp said. The app asks: â€œWhat can we help you with?â€ (in writing) and the user types in their question or issue. Arguably, the core offering of the app is a symptom navigator, similar to iTriage. Better, however, is stocked with medical content from the Mayo Clinic. If a user enters certain symptoms, Better might suggest a user consider seeking emergency care or calling their physician, but for those users who have a paid subscription to Better, the app can connect them â€” when appropriate â€” with a lifestyle coach, registered nurse, or physician at the Mayo Clinic.
At the launch of Better at the D:Life Conference, Geoff Clapp demonstrated how the app works, by looking for health advice for abdominal pain. Once the app gives you certain responses, you can read through the different possible diseases (some of which is rather dense and not so mobile friendly – something they’re working on improving), or call for more assistance, which connects you with a registered nurse at the Mayo Clinic. This video by WSJ shows the demonstration as well a brief interview with Clapp about the different functionalities of the App.
MobiHealthNews goes on to report:
Besides the curated content, symptom navigator, and premium telephone consultation services, Better also integrates with various fitness tracking devices. While Clapp didnâ€™t specifically name which devices his app would pull data from, he was wearing both a Basis Band and (what appeared to be) a Jawbone UP on either wrist and did reference both of them during the demo. Basis might be providing heart rate data, while the other wrist-worn device was for tracking steps, he said.
This is exciting because many new innovations in healthcare have been focused on developing sensors and other means of gathering big data. But, while all this data now exists, there need to new ways of using it in meaningful and helpful ways. Better, by synthesizing this with other healthcare information, will send reminders about exercise, provide health tips, and be able to better process ailments since it continuously tracks everyday activity as well. But the big question is, what does this mean for the future of the healthcare industry? Geoff Clapp writes on his blog:
I fundamentally believe that great care needs to start with great doctors and great nurses, and we need to focus on scaling, not replacing, them. Yes, we have a shortage of care, and yes, the cost of computing power is less than the cost of people – the classic â€œpeople donâ€™t scaleâ€ argument. Starting with the idea that we have to replace people with machines is counterproductive, because it doesnâ€™t force us to solve any of the real problems we have in healthcare today, like operational efficiency, care delivery, and adopting successful consumer models for engagement and growth. So, our take is simple: start out by partnering with the very best healthcare organization in the world, the Mayo Clinic, and focus relentlessly on growth and scale.
He also writes an interesting explanation for why the business model is (initially, anyway) focused on direct-to-consumer:
I believe empowering consumers to be engaged in their health starts with choice. Mobile and consumer choice has changed every market, and healthcare is not an exception to this force. We will work to drive healthcare prices down and to expand options to as much of the population as we can. This starts by providing choice, and exceeding expectations of what â€œquality careâ€ really means. At Better weâ€™ve already taken services you simply canâ€™t get today, made many of them free, and cut the cost of most of them by 30% or more. We will also offer more premium services at a higher price point, and if you want a jet to come pick you up in a foreign country and fly you back to the best care in the world (yes, we offer this), it costs money and is not for everyone. But the very engine of a market economy is empowering customers and growing a market is giving them the choice, and weâ€™re very sure this will have a net-positive effect on the market costs, overall.
While Better won’t be available for another few months, and then too will only be available in the U.S., this could be an excellent model for healthcare in remote locations as well as in rural (or urban) areas as an affordable source of reliable health information. The tiered revenue structure of the app also makes it possible for a range of people to use it to access basic information. However, access to nurses, doctors and hospitals can raise the price of the app considerably. It will be interesting to keep an eye out in this space to see how the app can be scaled effectively amongst low-income communities in places like India, whose need for health care is among the highest, but whose access may be extremely limited.