PSFK tours next-generation primary care facility Forward and speaks to the chief medical officer for a glimpse into the tech-enabled future of on-demand, consumer-driven healthcare

Patients of the traditional U.S. primary care model are no strangers to systemic problems and experiential pain points. Forward, as the name would imply, is aiming to invent a new future for primary care, taking inspiration from a DTC climate that favors personalization and empowerment of a wellness-obsessed public.

PSFK toured Forward's avant-garde facility for an inside look at the space that prioritizes high-tech efficiency and transparency. We also spoke to Chief Medical Officer Nate Favini to find out how Forward pairs best-in-class doctors with wellness-focused ideology and on-demand mobile technology to provide primary care that's personal, accessible and highly effective.

PSFK: What are the shifts you're seeing from a consumer‑patient point of view? What's driving their new expectations for health care?

Nate Favini: There's a huge unmet demand for wellness‑oriented and very scientifically‑backed care. When we go to new cities, people are signing up before we've even started marketing or even opened the doors of the clinic. What consumers are saying is, “We want someone who doesn't treat us like a sick patient. We want someone who treats us with respect as an individual, with goals that might be wellness oriented, and that takes that seriously.”

There's also a certain democratization of health care going on, especially with genetic testing getting less and less expensive, to the point where most people can afford to have it done. It really unlocks the potential to know about this stuff well in advance.

I think the direct‑to‑consumer trend that we're seeing in the industry is a really a positive sign. To me, it suggests that businesses are now moving to meet the demand we see. The traditional health system is afraid of the direct‑to‑consumer model, but to me that's where the most interesting and exciting change is happening.

What were the biggest challenges with the traditional primary care model that you set out to solve with Forward?

We wanted to address the fact that in the traditional health care system, it's all essentially sick care. It's not actually wellness‑related care. We wanted to make the experience of coming to the doctor oriented toward their well-being, as opposed to just taking care of the things that are wrong, so we can prevent issues from happening.

We wanted to take primary care from this episodic thing, where you see the doctor a couple of times a year, and make it into a much more proactive and continuous type of experience with an app, and with the care team. It's really customized to what the individual needs and where they're going to most benefit from the service.

What are some of the specific ways Forward is working to improve the patient experience and meet emerging needs?

Something about Forward that's been underreported and underappreciated is the way we're using technology to improve the efficiency and delivery in care. There's all this administrative work in health care. Doctors spend so much of their time doing paperwork.

There's so much waste in the health care system. We're working to basically take all of that administrative work and just automate it. We are building tools to enable people other than doctors to do it. Starting at $149 a month, we think that we can pretty dramatically push down the price of offering the service and make this available to everyone.

The space is another big way. We bring people into a facility that gives them time to consider where they're at in their health. We encourage them to reflect on that and work with a provider who's an expert to develop a plan that's right for them.

Our designers come to our offices. They follow around our doctors. They follow around our members. They really want to get a good understanding of how to make the tools useful, but also, and I think this is what's missing in a lot of traditional health care, how to make it a great experience.

The entire experience in coming here activates people. Patients essentially have a provider who is part doctor and part coach, helping you to set a personal plan for yourself and make it something that's really tailored to your goals.

Then we use the app to send reminders, which helps create a nice feedback loop. The entire experience is built to get people into a mindset where they want to make changes and improve their health and then to support them as they go. It's totally customized around their particular needs, and empowers them to proactively take care of their health.

Forward

Patients of the traditional U.S. primary care model are no strangers to systemic problems and experiential pain points. Forward, as the name would imply, is aiming to invent a new future for primary care, taking inspiration from a DTC climate that favors personalization and empowerment of a wellness-obsessed public.

PSFK toured Forward's avant-garde facility for an inside look at the space that prioritizes high-tech efficiency and transparency. We also spoke to Chief Medical Officer Nate Favini to find out how Forward pairs best-in-class doctors with wellness-focused ideology and on-demand mobile technology to provide primary care that's personal, accessible and highly effective.