The tech company with an entirely different view of health care: Preventative medicine for the tech generation
For the last couple of decades, technology has tackled industry after industry turning each on its head, but healthcare is still up for grabs. With Trump’s attempt (and failure) to repeal Obamacare, the topic is up in lights.
Healthcare just doesn’t feel like it’s working, insurance aside, we don’t manage our health on a day-to-day basis, not with any professionalism at least. Many of us have started listening to teenage “nutritionists” YouTubing about “clean eating”, and trying whichever diet is currently in-vogue. But do we really think there’s no middle ground between emergency room visits and our own half-cocked attempts to fad diet ourselves to health?
Co-Founder and CEO of Kaigo Health, Uzochukwu Chima, sees the current strains on healthcare and insurance differently. “We don’t use car insurance to change brake pads or gasoline because prices would skyrocket,” he says. Chima believes instead in serious, preventative medicine and guidance from professionals before problems become advanced, dangerous, and expensive to fix.
His brake pads and oil change analogy isn’t as far of a stretch as it may at first sound. When you think about it, a working liver is as important to your well-being as functioning brake pads. But for many reasons, as a society, we tend to seek out experts to check up on our car’s health more regularly than we do our own bodies.
I recently had the chance to talk with Chima and tried to get to the bottom of the inadequacies in the health industry as it stands. Perhaps the flaws are simply in our perception of it? Either way, there must be a different way of looking at the problem.
Kaigo Health is launching an app next month which, combined with a subscription starting at $49 per month, gives you access to a range of healthcare professionals. Not just a doctor- a trainer, dietician, even as far as a chef. They already have a network of thousands of professionals and have teamed up with Johns Hopkins University and the Mayo Clinic.
The idea is to keep you in touch with your own, familiar, community of professionals so you can keep track of your health, seek advice and take necessary steps manage your day to day health.
“We’re not replacing insurance or a national health service, you still need that, but on top of that you have Kaigo so you have a community of people you trust and you can manage your health,” Chima continues. His argument is that if you take away the doctor’s visits which are the result of managing existing ailments, and the visits which are the result of not having attended carefully enough to your health, you can reduce your premiums and overall health care costs.
Even your premiums plus the Kaigo subscriptions, he suggests, should be much cheaper than your current premiums. In addition to reduced premiums, Kaigo subscribers get a group of people they and trust watching out for them, and access to services one might not usually get, like a dietician. Technology has made these connections affordable. “The only reason celebrities can do 60-date tours is because they have this team of people looking after them, and we want to give everyone that,” says Chima.
Kaigo works on a SaaS model, proposing that this extra layer of service atop any current care will make the existing system cheaper, relieve the burden on it and enhance its capabilities. “This is your health we’re talking about,” Chima stresses “it should be easy and friendly and reassuring!”
Chima’s manner is that of a true entrepreneur, that sense of passionate excitement you’d usually find in a child understanding the stars for the first time. And he has the ambition to match, not only does he seem to think people aren’t expecting enough from their current healthcare system, but he wants to take his new idea global.
Plans are to enter Europe next year, starting with the UK, Germany, and Austria. I suggested to him that a healthcare company is not an easy one to expand, with wildly differing systems and regulations in each territory. And what about countries like the UK, Canada, and Sweden which have highly functioning and much-loved national healthcare systems?
He isn’t worried about any of that. “The point,” he says, “is that Kaigo naturally sits on top of these systems. People will be able to make better use of their system with our connections and advice. And we can offer something they can’t, Kaigo is about community, it’s about putting people in touch with other people and building relationships.”
Kaigo doesn’t intend to get involved in storing masses of sensitive data, the service will advise and guide, directing you to your existing system when necessary armed with better information.
He gives me his favorite line “there’s little hospitality in hospitals… which is where the word comes from.” I can’t disagree there, doctors are busy, they give you a 10-minute consultation, and they’re on to the next patient, which we tend to take a sympathetic view towards because they’re saving lives.
But to Chima the community approach goes beyond hospitality to preventative care, “Every American should have a customized written plan,” he writes in his blog, “ plans should be prepared by trained health coaches who are not beholden to insurance companies or providers. Coaches should have access to the latest medical research so they can offer objective, scientifically-based guidance.”
And it seems to be working, Kaigo have grown from 5 to 20 US cities in the last 10 months. “The first two or three years were spent building up our medical expertise,” he explains, “now it’s time to energize our members.” The plan here starts with companies since that’s the core of the US health insurance system. They are offering packages to businesses who can then offer their employees Kaigo Cards which give them access to their dedicated group of healthcare specialists.
The tech sector is always on the lookout for “the next big thing”. And while that’s proven incredibly difficult to predict in the past it always seems to start from someone approaching a problem in a way it hasn’t been approached in the past.