Take an industry like healthcare and just try to disrupt it. We dare you. Many before you have tried and failed, but if you have the stomach to give it one more go, make sure to call Jim Kean first over at WellnessFX. In just a few short years, NBJ has had the good fortune to watch Kean and his company forge bold, new paths through the clotted veins of conventional healthcare.
“We democratized access to diagnostics,” says Kean, the company’s CEO and founder. Kean was also a founder at Sapient Health Network in 1995, before WebMD came calling and acquired the business as its consumer health portal. “Prior to our service, it was really hard for consumers to get easy, efficient access to cutting-edge biomarkers. You had to make an appointment with your doctor, beg for a deeper panel, find somebody to talk about the data that comes back. We've given consumers time back in their lives.”
True enough. Th e baseline package at WellnessFX goes deeper to 30 biomarkers, and the data visualization that results is intuitive, actionable and, most importantly, trend oriented. “We gave consumers access to tools to make good, predictive decisions about their health,” says Kean, “and then we drove the cost down.” Th at baseline package runs $199 and includes an initial tele-health consult with a practitioner of your choosing inside the WellnessFX network of providers, a network stacked deep with integrative caregivers knowledgeable and friendly to nutritional solutions. In this light, Wellness-FX not only opens up medicine to greater competition and pricing pressure, but it begins to truly legitimize supplementation as a productive health regimen.
Curtis Feeny of Voyager Capital led the first round of investment for WellnessFX and signed on as chairman. “I do think medicine is now teed up as one of the last big industries to adopt technology,” says Feeny. “Medicine is changing with the death of one doctor at a time. This creates the space for a younger, internet-bred generation to drive the industry forward.” Joining Voyager as early investors are Mike Maples of Floodgate—a legend in Silicon Valley with his fingerprints on such tech homeruns as Twitter and Digg—and Javelin Venture Partners.
The diagnostics sweet spot
WellnessFX sits confi dently at an ambiguous but very sweet spot—right in the cradle of declining costs for web diagnostics, declining costs for blood diagnostics, and transparency that better empowers consumers to manage and control their own health data. No matter how you position the company—as this big data repository for consumer health, as a corporate benefit to employees verily pushed to self-care by the Aff ordable Care Act, as a barometer of anonymous but specifi ed health demographics once that data’s in place, as a de facto efficacy study for dietary supplements in real populations of consumers—nutrition plays a vital role.
“We’re poised to announce our integration with a supplement wholesaler in Q1 that will allow us to fulfi ll the recommendations out of our practitioner consults,” says Kean. “It’s our biggest complaint so far—‘If you guys just fulfi lled this, that would remove a pain point for me.’” The stats here are compelling, as 90% of WellnessFX consults lead to supplement recommendations. On average, that’s fi ve supplements per user at $74 per month on a four-month testing cycle. Users of the service typically visit a local LabCorp for a quick blood draw, then view results and consult with practitioners online to determine the protocol. After a few rounds, the trending allows for some sophisticated analysis—like 1,000 IU of vitamin D produced benefit to C-reactive proteins as a marker for inflammation, but upping to 2,000 IU had the reverse effect. Voilá—personalized medicine in action.
WellnessFX is expanding, as you might surmise, and has plans to do business in all 50 states early in 2013. Th e company is driving hard on new channels of growth—namely fitness & health clubs, according to Kean—and expanding its service to integrate historical data from pre-WellnessFX draws that strengthen the trends. “This is a customized medical management system that would have cost you $10K at the Mayo Clinic ten years ago,” says Feeny. “If you're over 40 in America today, I don't know why you wouldn't do this to optimize your health.”
The big hurdle here, of course, is cost, but Feeny sees WellnessFX becoming profitable in due course by targeting products at the upper 10% of the market. Th is, again in due course, allows effi ciencies of scale to drive costs down even as Moore’s law works its ineluctable way through the diagnostic technology and compounds that impact. Lo and behold, it’s not too wild a stretch of the imagination to picture WellnessFX as a real democratizer of healthcare with kits inside Walmart for $60 a pop. Now that’s the new face of innovation, folks.