Primary Care

Forward Closes $100M For AI CarePods


The doctor’s office of the future might not even have a doctor in it, at least if Forward can execute on its vision for CarePods using the $100M of Series E funding it locked in last week.

Forward got its start in 2016 building high-tech primary care clinics that offload as much as possible from doctors and nurses onto hardware and software. Now, it’s looking to take that model to the extreme with fully self-service AI medical stations called CarePods.

CarePods use proprietary AI layered on top of full-body scans, diagnostic tools, and lab tests to generate care plans called Health Apps, which patients can access via the Forward mobile app. Here’s how it works:

  • You unlock the CarePod using your smartphone, then step in to find a large touchscreen and a glowing ring on the floor that marks the full-body scanner.
  • A voice starts guiding you through the process, and the screen begins serving up Health Apps for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and anxiety.
  • Depending on the selection, a drawer will open with the sensors needed to perform the test, as well as a needleless collection device to draw blood for any lab work.
  • After the ~15 minute process, the diagnosis is displayed on the screen and an AI-generated care plan gets reviewed by a physician and pushed to the app.

The plan is to start by launching 25 CarePods in malls and offices before doubling the footprint next year, with a $99/mo membership providing unlimited access to the CarePods, Forward app, and virtual visits with Forward doctors.

  • It’s worth noting that TechCrunch quoted Forward as planning to launch over 3,200 CarePods by the end of 2024… ambitious if true.

The initial reaction to CarePods was unsurprisingly polarized. The believers think that an accessible AI diagnosis is better than a skipped screening and no diagnosis at all. Easy enough to see their point.

  • Others are up in arms arguing that “jukebox medicine” underestimates how much gets lost when you take human interaction out of the equation. You might be able to automate primary care services, but automating primary care is out of the question.

The Takeaway

Forward’s mission is to deliver “the world’s best healthcare to one billion people,” and the only way that’s going to happen is if it can succeed in transforming “healthcare services” into “healthcare products.”  There simply aren’t enough clinicians to deliver that much care without reimagining how that care gets delivered, and Forward sees CarePods as the next piece in solving that puzzle.

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