Ashton Kutcher-Backed Medical Startup Brings A.I.-Assisted Technology, Futuristic Body Scans to L.A. Mall
High-tech, membership-only health facility Forward, whose investors also include Bono and Matthew McConaughey, opens Nov. 15 at Westfield Century City, offering speedy care for time-is-money Hollywood VIPs.
Artificial intelligence-augmented medical offices stocked with high-tech gadgets, full-body scanners and touch-screen computers that record doctors' notes in real time are not a hazy vision of the future; they're waiting for you right now — just downstairs from Chick-fil-A. Membership-only health facility Forward ($149/month), which launched in San Francisco earlier this year, opens its L.A. outpost Nov. 15 at Westfield Century City — just a stone's throw from the offices of CAA and ICM Partners and the Fox lot — with hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Founder and CEO Adrian Aoun (who previously built Google's AI division) has recruited such industry investors as Matthew McConaughey, Bono, The Edge, Guy Oseary and Ashton Kutcher, along with tech billionaires. (Forward reportedly has raised more than $100 million.) "Every time I talk to Ashton, he has like 19 ideas," says Aoun of the high-energy star. " 'Hey, have you thought about using genetics to do this? What about this sensor?' " Says McConaughey, "We all have stories of our loved ones and even those on the periphery of our lives going through health struggles. With Forward, we're enabling everyone to take control of their health and not just wait for those problems to occur."
Oseary says he and Kutcher "were swept up in excitement from the second we walked into Forward — when has that ever happened at a doctor's office?" At a typical visit, vitals are taken on a body scanner before the member changes into Lululemon gear (no paper gowns here, or in fact, paper at all) and settles in front of a massive interactive screen to review results with a doctor. Aoun and his team created everything from scratch inside a NorCal warehouse, where physicians saw real patients and scientists created devices to streamline the experience. To wit: Near-infrared light finds veins so there's no poking around to draw blood, and Forward processes samples in 12 minutes for everything from cholesterol to STD results.
Aoun dreamed up the concept of Forward after his brother had a heart attack at just 31. “I realized in this world we are active participants in every single part of our lives — we didn’t like Blockbuster so we have Netflix, we didn’t like polluting so we have Tesla, we didn’t like crappy phones so we have Apple. But healthcare? It’s arguably the most important thing we have.” Instead of a repair shop for humans where you go when something is wrong, Aoun conceived Forward to be an ongoing and constant presence in a member's life.
The data collected and preventative regimens and treatment plans don’t live on the doctor’s notepad — they’re accessible on an app that also provides members with 24/7 access to live medical staff. (In the event of an emergency Forward will even alert the hospital and send health records, coordinate with specialists, and manage all post-care.) Dermatology and optometry will be folded into the offerings next, for no additional fee, and prescriptions, supplements and devices such as a sleep sensor that can radio data to the 24/7 team, are sent home with patients, too (or delivered, also free of extra charge).
The L.A. location's team of six doctors can handle 7,000 members, says Aoun, who predicts stress reduction will be a focus. "[Hollywood execs] all have got high-blood pressure, they've all got mental health issues," says Aoun. "It's the same in tech." Also common to both industries: a demand for instant gratification. "In our world, it's a same-minute appointment," says Aoun. "It would be a very bad idea to tell someone, 'Next week.' "
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.