Keas: Build our iPhone app; SMS coming soon

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 9, 2010        

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KeasAt the mHI event in Washington D.C. last week, Keas CEO and former Google Health head Adam Bosworth gave attendees an update on his startup’s progress and hinted that more mobile functionality will be added to the online care plan service as soon as this week. Bosworth said he decided to present at the event last minute and that he was really in town to meet with the HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to discuss the strategy behind and distribution of federal stimulus money for the heathcare industry.

Keas, which launched last October, offers various personalized care plans for consumers interested in leveraging their personal health data to make healthier decisions. Keas takes the Apple AppStore approach: People with medical expertise create care plans for Keas which then makes them available to consumers. When consumers buy a care plan, Keas takes a 30 percent cut of the revenue and passes the rest onto the plan’s designers. (Interestingly, Keas is not currently allowing licensed medial practitioners to create care plans.)

Bosworth said that Keas users will be able to track their health behaviors, biometrics and receive updates and reminders by using text messages (SMS) in the coming week. While the company has developed an iPhone application for Keas in-house, Bosworth said he’s not impressed enough to launch it. The prototype app sounds more like an icon on the iPhone user’s screen that links to Keas’ website.

“We have a little web-based app that I have been playing around with on my iPhone,” Bosworth said. “I am not in love with it… We need to rethink [Keas] in this form factor. Plus, [the iPhone is] very elitist.”

Bosworth admitted that he’s not sure he wants to interact with Keas on the web via a mobile devices, and that’s one reason Keas will create a native app and include an open API so developers can build connections and create a better mobile experience for users.

“If someone came along and built [a Keas iPhone app] we would be delighted,” Bosworth said. “It may not be us.”

“We have tens of thousands of users right now,” Bosworth said. ” That’s not as many as we want. Originally we wanted to have about 100,000 users by now. By the end of the year our goal is to have at least one million users and at least 10 million by the end of next year. That’s just within the U.S., but we are under enormous pressure from other countries. To be blunt, when we look at other countries with single payer models, better incentives and none of the complications we have in the U.S., if you are my company you might seriously consider going there first.”

Every other service industry changed the way it interacted with consumers when the Internet and mobile technologies came along, Keas CEO Adam Bosworth said during a presentation in Washington D.C. last week. Routine things that could be automated and done algorithmically were put into the consumers hand and under their control, leading to a much more cost effective model and a happier consumer.

“One notable exception is health,” Bosworth lamented. “The healthcare industry is still stuck in the 1980s, and that’s being generous. Now, if our healthcare system worked perfectly then that’d be one thing, but it’s not the case. We spend twice per capita what others spend and our outcomes are measurable worst than most.”

Bosworth explained that we have only 150,000 primary care providers on the “frontlines” in the U.S. (another statement he deemed generous), and our physicians only have time to spend about 15 minutes with their 25 patients a day.

“That time is precious — don’t want to waste that time,” Bosworth said. “We waste it.”

The healthcare industry has not yet taken the power of the Internet and mobile technologies and put it into the hands of the consumer, Bosworth said. The closest it has come is with personal health records (PHRs).

“The term that people have come up with is PHR,” Bosworth said. “I hate this term.”

Bosworth likened the personal health record offerings to the online financial services available a few years ago. Mint.com is currently the fastest growing product on the market that helps people manage their finances, but years ago another startup, named Yodlee, tried to do a similar thing. Yodlee pulled together all of a person’s financial data, which is the financial equivalent of a PHR, Bosworth said. How did consumers greet Yodlee’s offering? With a “collective yawn,” Bostworth said. Meanwhile, Mint.com figured out that there was something extraordinarily useful about having a person’s financial data aggregated in one place: You could help them make plans, pay bills, manage their accounts and analyze their spending and saving habits. Mint realized that helping its users understand what they are doing and, in turn, helping them determine what they need to do, led to a successful service offering, according to Bosworth.

Keas, the startup Bosworth formally launched last year, is focused on providing the Mint.com of health, Bosworth said, only there’s a “gotcha”. Keas is not like Mint because Mint takes a one size fits all approach, which works for most financial management services. Understand how people spend money then help them to spend less — that’s easy to do with that kind of approach. For health, however, ever user has a different set of health conditions, diseases and so on.

“Since we face these kind of issues, what we need is not one Mint.com, but maybe we need 1,000,” Bosworth said. “If you currently weigh 180 pounds, what does that mean for you? Are you over weight, under weight, just right? Well, we aren’t geniuses, so we said, let’s enable others to build that expertise. Keas is trying to be the middleman between the people who have the expertise and the consumer.”

Bosworth said that Keas allows consumers and care givers to interpret personal health data, access health information from any mobile phone, record patient preferences, deliver personalized patient education for whatever ails them, provide smart reminders based on progress, communicate via the Internet and email as well as two-way mobile communication, provide self-management tools after discharge, and more.

Bosworth said that some of their partners, perhaps health plans, are planning to limit access to Keas’ entire suite of care plans. Bosworth said that situation would not be ideal, but Keas could live with it.