“Solutions don't really matter. Problems matter.” – Adrian Aoun
Adrian Aoun is founder and CEO of Forward, which is building an insurance-free healthcare system focused on preventative healthcare from the ground up. Forward was founded in 2017 to invert the typical model of healthcare, which follows the service model where one patient sees a single doctor whenever they need care. Forward is building healthcare focused on health and preventative care that's 1) productized so you can use it anytime, anywhere, 2) scalable so it's affordable to everyone, and 3) always on with help available through the Forward app and a network of offices around the US. This might sound like, well, how healthcare should have been all along, which is the goal.
To be clear, Forward is tackling a massive problem in the United States. In 2021, healthcare spending accounted for a full 19.7% of GDP. That's a full one-fifth. That number is compounding at a rate of 6% to 7% year-over-year, which begs the question, how is that even possible? And what happens when healthcare as a percentage rises to 30% or even 40% of GDP, which is a likely scenario?
Before founding Forward, Adrian worked as an advisor to the White House on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, as well as a director of special projects for the CEO of Google and the founder of Sidewalk Labs.
This episode is a special one. In it we cover why Adrian is fanatical about being problem-focused rather than solution-focused, what he learned leading special projects for Sergey Brin at Google, and why Forward is focused on productizing healthcare to bring down the cost of treatments, make healthcare available 24/7, help customers manage all aspects of their health, and increase the pace of innovation and iteration.
Adrian shares his perspective on what happens as the percentage of GDP dedicated to healthcare reaches 30% and even 40%, and he talks through how he uses extreme perspectives to pick apart complex issues and come to ground truths.
For more, explore the transcript of this episode.
This episode is our definitive guide to healthcare as a product rather than a service. In it we cover:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction
- 00:02:37 – From Google to Forward
- 00:09:01 – Why founders should be problem-oriented
- 00:12:31 – Advising the President on the future of technology
- 00:17:22 – The root problem of the healthcare industry
- 00:25:24 – Why healthcare should be a product, not a service
- 00:30:01 – The imminent fall of health insurance
- 00:35:06 – Does the healthcare system really matter?
- 00:45:47 – Why medical specialties don’t make sense
- 00:55:02 – How Forward is a mission that happens to have a company attached to it
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Player FM, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.
Our Favorite Quotes
Here are a few ideas we'll be thinking about weeks and months from now:
- “We have this concept at Forward, which is that we love to beat up ideas. Some people get really uncomfortable with that. They're like, "What do you mean you're beating up my idea." Sometimes people come in, we have a meeting type called the jam where we work through problems, and we attack ideas. We attack them. People are like, "Don't attack my idea. You're attacking me." I'm like, ‘No, I'm not attacking you. I'm attacking the idea.’”
- “You are not your idea. I promise you, you're not.”
- “It turns out problems tend not to change and solutions change all the time. We know this.”
- “You intuitively know that technology scales in a way that humans don't. You intuitively know that hardware and software scales in a way that doctors don't. We only have one insight at Forward that we believe that nobody else believes. We believe healthcare should be a product, not a service. We believe that roughly everything in healthcare should just be a hardware and software problem, not a human problem.”
- “We've created a healthcare system that's only focused on short-term health. The last five times you went to the doctor, how much do you want to bet it was for flu, rashes, stomach aches? Well, okay, guys, but I'm going to die someday. Can we talk about that?”
- “We want to create a platform whereby the entire world of healthcare starts working together and the rate of innovation starts going through the roof, because until we get there, we're never going to get healthcare to go exponential the same way that transportation's got exponential.”
- “We are not a company that happens to have a mission attached. We're a mission that happens to have a company attached.”
5 Ways to Dive Deeper
- R-Zero – Pioneering with 100+ Year Old Technology with Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Ben Boyer: Check out this Outlier Academy episode with Ben Boyer, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of R-Zero, which designs hospital-grade disinfection solutions utilizing UV-C light. (51 Min)
- Progress Studies with Jason Crawford of Roots of Progress: Jason Crawford is Founder and CEO of The Roots of Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century. In this episode of Outlier Academy, Jason and Daniel discuss progress made in biotech, and whether innovation is actually stagnating. (61 Min)
- Inventing the Future of Vitamins and Data Driven Health with Rachel Sanders of Rootine: In this episode of Outlier Academy, Rachel Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of Rootine, a personalized micronutrient subscription service, discusses the future data-driven health through the lens of the vitamin and supplement industry. (44 Min)
- A Masterclass on Metabolic Health, The Next Frontier in Real-Time Health Optimization with Josh Clemente of Levels: In this episode of Outlier Academy with Josh Clemente, the Founder and President of Levels, we cover using data feedback loops to monitor blood glucose and improve health. (56 Min)
- Visualizing the medical data explosion: This TED Talk with scientific visualization expert Anders Ynnerman introduces high-tech health solutions (like virtual autopsies) that make healthcare a product, rather than a service. (17 Min)
We covered a lot of ground in this interview. Here are links to the stories, articles, and ideas discussed:
- Sidewalk Labs | Urban Innovation
- Larry Page | Wikipedia
- Eric Schmidt | Wikipedia
- Kaiser Permanente | Custom Care & Coverage Just For You
- Elon Musk | Wikipedia
- President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology | PCAST
- Introduction to Billing Code Systems | ASHA
- One Medical | Exceptional Primary Care
- Tom Lee | LinkedIn
- goop | A modern lifestyle brand
- method | household cleaners, laundry supplies, personal care + soap
- UnitedHealthcare | Health insurance plans
- Uber | Get Moving