Mayo Clinic-Backed Health Assistant App Raises $5 Million Seed Round

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The Mayo Clinic is partnering with a new mobile health startup called Better that is launching an app it hopes will fundamentally disrupt the process of researching health conditions online. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup was founded in 2013 and has raised a massive $5 million seed round led by Mayo Clinic and the Social+Capital Partnership.

The team behind the project has a track record of success. Geoff Clapp is a serial entrepreneur who previously founded the Health Hero Network before being acquired by Bosch Healthcare, and now serves as an advisor for Rock Health. He has also held positions with Apple and Genomera. Co-founder Chamath Palihapitiya is the founder and managing director of The Social+Capital Partnership, a prestigious VC fund in Palo Alto, Calif. with an equity stake in the new startup.

The core concept, as it was explained by CEO and founder Geoff Clapp at this week’s D: Dive Into Mobile demo event, brings a subscription-based model to the online health information market that would include unlimited text, email, and phone support from an actual clinician that will help users research conditions, from properly describing their symptoms, to evaluating their search results.

The app also allows users to import health summaries from their local physician offices, as well as manually report conditions, medications, allergies, and medical histories, all of which will be available to nurses while they are helping steer the medical research process.

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Clapp presents the app’s built-in symptom checker during his demo, highlighting that within the results, both celiac disease and an aneurysm are presented. It is at this point that a Mayo Clinic employed nurse is brought into the search process to evaluate the users symptoms and guide the remainder of the search process. The clinical content within the app is also maintained by the Mayo Clinic. The nurse can continue to help by searching for and booking a local follow up visits, or referring the patient to a local ER when necessary.

Long-term health goals, such as quitting smoking, reducing blood pressure, or losing weight, are also supported with standardized content and a support structure that includes periodic check-ins with personal coaches.

The platform will monetize through a range of subscription levels, with the free version providing a centralized patient portal, symptom checker, and medical research tool. The next level would provide access to Mayo Clinic nurses, and higher levels would introduce personal coaches, and even on-call physicians. Subscription pricing has not been locked in yet, but early reports are that entry level pricing will start at $50/month, a steep price considering the market is saturated with freeware.

Still, in a mHealth market widely criticized for being full of snake-oil promises, there may be a market for a consumer-friendly, evidence-based, clinician-guided research platform for consumers to look into health conditions and asking health questions. A 2013 Pew Research report found that 72 percent of US internet users looked up health information online within the last year so, at very least, the audience is there.


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