The list of health-related questions we will encounter in out lifetimes is endless. And if there is one thing I have learned about the medical system in the U.S., it’s that you need an advocate, or someone with knowledge of the system and healthcare to help you figure out what decision to make. Should you go to the ER for that pain? Is it worth appealing your insurance decision? Do I need a second opinion on that diagnosis?
For me personally, I have a number of health care professionals in my family, including my father, who have helped serve as my advocates. I am fortunate, and I have long wished that the kind of personal attention and assistance I have received over the past 32 years was something that could be democratized for all. Today, with the launch of Better, I think my wish is coming true.
The startup, which was co-founded by entrepreneur Geoff Clapp and investor Chamath Palihapitiya, is debuting today with $5 million in funding from Palihapitiya’s firm Social+Capital Partnership and The Mayo Clinic. While Mayo is an investor, the health institution is also a content partner, and Better provides tailored Mayo Clinic health information, 24/7 access to the hospital’s world-class nurses, along with access to a Better Personal Health Assistant.
Here’s how it works. Via the iOS app, you provide some information about yourself, like gender, blood type, weight, and preferred diet. You’ll also be asked to include details like blood pressure, allergies, and existing medical conditions. The app can also help you get your records from your existing or past doctors, and give you a place to store all your medical data. And you can include the same sort of information about family members and other people you care about. Clapp noted in an interview with TechCrunch that Better complies with all HIPAA standards concerning privacy.
The app will then use all of this information to deliver personalized health information from the Mayo Clinic based on your and your family member’s health-related interests and medical history. So if your father has diabetes, you’ll be delivered information around the disease. If you have a two-year-old with chronic ear infections, you’ll receive content around that topic.
But where Better really differentiates itself is by providing a personal health assistant that will be your new health advocate. The Better Personal Health Assistants are trained health professionals who can quickly provide information or direct any necessary next steps, including making an appointment with someone’s existing physician or connecting with a Mayo Clinic nurse for 24/7 answers to questions. The Better Personal Health Assistant can also serve as a guide on many other health-related issues, from selecting a specialist or a doctor, creating a family health action plan, or even sorting out how to get the most out of one’s health insurance.
There is a free version of the app that gives you access to the Mayo content but does not include the personal health assistant. That will cost you around $50 per month, but this covers the entire family, and provides unlimited contact, including through text, email and phone. As Clapp explains to me, the assistant isn’t just for questions about a possible health issue. Navigating insurance these days is a huge challenge, and Clapp says many beta testers have used the advocates to help answer questions and more.
For Palihapitiya, the idea of having a personal health concierge was something he has been thinking about for a long time. And Clapp is the perfect person to partner with — he founded telemedicine startup Health Hero Network, which was acquired by Bosch in 2007, and has served as a mentor to health-tech seed fund Rock Health.
Better has eight full-time assistants on staff, including nurses and insurance experts. As for the future, Better envisions companies adding its service as a perk, similar to the way many companies now offer One Medical as a benefit.
It’s important to note that some of these services, such as a nurse line, are provided by many doctors. But the beauty of Better is that it can supplement anything that is existing. My pediatricians offer a nurse line during the week, and on the weekends and nights, but it often takes more than 15 minutes (or even an hour) to return a call. The average wait time to talk to a Mayo Clinic nurse is around one minute, adds Clapp.
If you can afford it, Better is something you may have use for in your life, in my opinion. Despite my own connections to the healthcare world, I’ll be signing up for an account because I know that my healthcare experience will only become better with more advocates on my side.
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