We’re excited to announce our investment in Heartbeat, a modern medical practice company that is redesigning the field of cardiology. Heartbeat is the creating the first-ever digital risk assessment and prevention service for cardiovascular health. Healthcare is a space we care deeply about, and Heartbeat presents an opportunity to vastly improve people’s lives at scale.
Heart disease, which includes conditions and illnesses such as hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attacks and strokes, represent the largest market in healthcare at $500B in total spent annually in the US alone. Heart disease causes more deaths in the US than all types of cancers combined. The Heartbeat team has a simple focus on quickly diagnosing and managing heart disease 10 years early in order to keep patients at their healthiest. Using a hybrid product model of digital and clinical assessment, Heartbeat is providing an accessible, low-cost and tech-enabled prevention service for men and women aged 30-55 that can have very dramatic results on people’s health outcomes.
The stellar Heartbeat team represent a great mix of technology, business, and product. Their software and on-site clinical experience is created by a multidisciplinary team of of cardiologists, software engineers, and designers with experience from Columbia Medical Center, Yale College of Medicine, and Rally Health.
We sat down with the founders of Heartbeat to go deeper on the design and product opportunity in this space.
Jeff, as a practicing cardiologist, why did you want to start Heartbeat?
Someone has a heart attack in this country every 40 seconds. More people die of heart disease than all cancers combined: the magnitude of this problem is second to none. Meanwhile, its urgency across our society seems to be declining. Traditional cardiology has become focused on treating advanced disease — and the new technologies developed that improve lifespan and quality in patients with advanced cardiovascular disease are truly amazing. But prevention has been left behind. I believe the next frontier of cardiology is the implementation of preventive cardiology — using digital and health-tech advances to support a widespread program that gets younger and healthier people to engage in their heart health before they get sick.
The focus of Heartbeat Health is on early diagnosis, long-term management, and improving patient experience so that heart health becomes a part of a life for everyone aged 35 and older.
What opportunities are there for product design to create a difference in heart disease?
Product design may be one of the best opportunities to engage people in appropriate healthcare before they become sick enough to ‘need’ it. The wellness and fitness worlds have been remarkably successful in bringing healthy behaviors to consumers through well-designed experiences. Bringing these product design principles to cardiology allows for frictionless engagement with personalized cardiovascular risk and diagnosis that is the foundation for the lifestyle and behavioral changes that improve outcomes.
Why hasn’t there been great product design in heart disease?
It’s cultural. The explosion of urgent care has demonstrated that consumers value convenience and high quality user experience in healthcare as much as they do in the rest of their lives. But specialty medicine lags, because the culture is optimized for reimbursements from payors, not patients. We are building a patient-centric solution, which on its own creates a culture that is focused on listening to patient needs.
What are the difficulties in creating new demographics in healthcare?
Our first set of learnings revolve around the difficulties in creating new demographics in healthcare. The 35-year-old is not ready to be proactive about heart health and can’t be immediately convinced out of nothing. Our response to this has been to instead approach the new demographic through nudge effects — creating experiences that appeal to slightly younger and healthier people as we bring our average age down from 50 to 45 to 40, and ultimately 35 years. This is what prompted our Heartbeat Life experiences, a set of non-traditional experiences that bridge cardiac diagnostics with wellness and fitness experiences — and aim to seduce patients into heart health engagement before they develop symptoms.
Nayan, you started another company before this called Leo Health. Any lessons from Leo that you’re bringing to Heartbeat?
With Leo, we helped take traditional pediatric practices and made them easier to run. We were obsessive about the patient experience and convenience — making it easier for parents to manage their kids’ health. We worked to trade paper and poor interface design for technology and better workflows. Changing care delivery starts with reducing overhead and operating costs of the legacy practice model. It takes deep expertise in healthcare to make that happen, but it is possible with the right advisors. Our pediatricians and clinical partners were critical to the development of our platform, but I am glad to have specialists on the team directly working on product this time around. Writing software in healthcare takes time — we are in the business of improving health in a highly regulated space not just optimizing for attention, but for outcomes.
In five years, what sort of change do you want to create in the world?
In five years time, we can demonstrate a significant improvement in cardiovascular risk profiles including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, sedentary lifestyles and weight loss — all stemming from an earlier age of first diagnosis and improved engagement in personal cardiovascular risk profiles. Hard outcomes such as cardiovascular events (heart attacks, strokes, heart failure), mortality, and quality of life often take closer to 10 years to demonstrate, but improvement in risk profiles are a good indication that we’re moving in the right direction.