With the rise of at-home DNA tests and personal biometric devices, consumers are increasingly looking to become partners rather than patients in their own medical care. They want more insights, more options, and more collaboration with their providers. Their expectations are a driving force in health care innovation, and nowhere is this more apparent than in virtual health care.
While convenience is a key benefit behind the demand for virtual services, consumers also don’t want to sacrifice contact. As one 2020 survey showed, health care consumers still value time, connection, and communication with doctors who know their medical stories. Enter Forward, a “direct primary care” company that offers enhanced primary care for a flat monthly fee. The brainchild of former Google and Uber employees, Forward elevates technology and hospitality in their quest to deliver top-notch primary care, but is the price tag worth what you get? Let’s take a look.
- Offers unlimited appointments, biometric monitoring, genetic risk analysis, and longer consultations
- Covers all primary care services with a flat monthly fee
- Encourages a sustained relationship with your doctor of choice
- Includes the ongoing care of chronic conditions
- Offers the convenience of in-home medical testing
- Includes tools for remote biometric monitoring
- 24/7 messaging with the Forward doctors and care team
- 24/7 access to all your health information
- Relatively expensive $149/month membership fee
- Requires a 6-month commitment
- Doesn’t cover children
- You’ll still need traditional health insurance to cover non-primary costs
If you have the financial means, Forward is a top-grade primary care supplement (not substitute) for your traditional insurance plan. Their focus on collaborative care also means you get to take an active role in decision-making about your health with top medical professionals. This, combined with a significant amount of quality time with your doctor and 24/7 access to your medical information, gives you the best opportunities to optimize your health.
Forward helps you take charge of your healthcare by creating greater collaboration between you and your doctor to determine your needs – and fulfill them.
Forward is optimizing the relationship between you and your healthcare provider by covering everything from daily care to chronic conditions, helping you create a long-term health plan tailor-made for you and your needs.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review of Forward was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Forward is a San Francisco–based health care company founded in 2016 by former employees of Google and Uber. Describing themselves as “doctor’s office of the future,” Forward combines state-of-the-art biometrics and personalized medicine to build a comprehensive and collaborative model for “enhanced” primary healthcare. The company notes that they employ doctors from the top medical schools and hospitals in the country.
Forward empowers doctors with the most advanced healthcare monitoring technologies to offer better diagnostic solutions. Their unique approach provides patients with more personalized care and encourages them to participate in health decision-making.
Intended to replace your regular primary care, Forward offers a broad scope of care that includes everyday health, chronic conditions, and long-range prevention. In addition to the basic services you’d expect from primary care, Forward addresses areas like nutrition and exercise counseling, mental health check-ins, mindfulness support, and stress management.
Together with the Forward doctor of your choice, you establish targeted health goals based on biometric and genetic insights, design a plan to help you reach your goals, and monitor your health over time.
It’s important to note that you’ll still need traditional health insurance to cover non-primary costs like additional diagnostic testing, scans and x-rays, emergency and specialist care, most prescriptions, and hospitalization costs.
How does it work?
Forward is a subscription-based platform that can replace members’ primary health care, although we feel it is best as a supplement to your base plan. Ultimately, Forward’s plan goes above and beyond traditional primary care, including:
- Preventative screening: age- and genetic-risks, mental health, women’s and men’s health, cancer screening, and metabolic function
- Lifestyle goal setting and support: weight loss, nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, mindfulness
- Everyday health: cold and flu, allergies, gastrointestinal health, headaches, dizziness, urinary health, sexual health, muscle and joint pain, dermatological issues, vaccinations
- Care for chronic conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, metabolic illnesses, inflammatory conditions, and autoimmune diseases.
First, you select your primary care doctor. You will have an opportunity to build a relationship with your physician throughout your membership. Using in-office body scans or remote sensor devices, blood tests, and medical history review, your health care practitioner will build an in-depth picture of your current health and offer recommendations for short-term goals and treatment plans.
Genetic testing through 23andMe is also included in your Forward membership. Your provider will analyze your genetic report and discuss your potential risks for developing certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Your provider will also determine medication sensitivities and any hidden insights for improving your overall health and fitness, including your likely responses to different types of diet and exercise.
Health monitoring also includes tracking your mental wellness and skin health. Mental health is examined with regular questionnaires and check-ins. Skin cancer scanning allows for assessment of questionable areas and ongoing monitoring of any skin changes over time.
All this information is brought together, along with your medical and family history, in the Forward app. This means you can access your health information and personalized recommendations at any time.
Your physician will spend significant time with you exploring your health data, discussing the results, and setting personalized goals. Your Forward physician and AI-intuitive app tools will help you achieve these goals by closely monitoring your health over time.
Should you require a prescription, your first fills of medications for some health conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, diabetes, asthma, and some infections) are included in your membership. However, recurring medications and those not stored on-site aren’t included.
Forward members have unlimited access to their physician and the entire care team, meaning you can set up virtual or in-person visits throughout your health journey to track and adjust your goals and strategies. You can also visit with other Forward physicians if you’re traveling or would like a second opinion.
Forward has a simple, straightforward payment structure. Their service is a $149/month flat fee with no copays or unexpected bills. They require a minimum commitment of six months. You also have the option of purchasing an annual membership for $1639, which offers a savings of one month’s fee.
The Forward membership covers many services other primary care companies don’t, such as in-home testing, biometric tracking, vaccinations, genetic counseling, and more. You’ll need to pay for most prescription costs, however, as well as non-primary services like hospitalization, emergency, specialist and urgent care, and advanced testing through a traditional health care plan.
A Forward subscription is HSA and FSA eligible. Members are able to use their flex account cards as they register. Forward customer service specialists can also help you connect your account to your HSA or FSA.
A Forward membership fully covers all primary care services they can do in-house. As a result, Forward services don’t bill insurance plans. Currently, Forward monthly fees aren’t considered billable to insurance, and they don’t provide documentation for insurance reimbursement.
Finally, it’s important to reiterate that Forward is not a substitute for comprehensive health insurance. Forward strongly advises members to maintain a regular health insurance plan to cover non-primary medical care.
Simply click the “Become a Member” button on the Forward website. You’ll have a choice between paying by the month or purchasing an annual membership. Once you’ve set up payment, you’ll be able to choose the doctor you’ll see either at a Forward location (currently 11 nationwide) or through virtual visits.
The next first step is to gather health data. You’ll receive a biometric device with sensors that can connect directly to your Forward medical profile to measure your body temperature, weight, and pulse oximetry. You’ll also receive a genetics kit (23andMe) that you’ll complete and send in as directed.
An in-home blood test will collect a metabolic panel, lipid panel, hemoglobin levels, liver function screening, and an optional STI screening. You’ll go through the results at your first “Baseline” (initial) visit. If you see your doctor onsite as opposed to virtually, these tests will be done in the office right before your first visit.
During the Baseline visit, your physician will review your medical history, lifestyle habits, and test results to create a comprehensive picture of your health with unique insights shown in full computer visualization. Together, you and your doctor will create a clear and actionable plan to address any medical issues and improve your overall health. After your Baseline visit, all your information will be uploaded to the app, giving you full access to your data and goal-setting plan.
In subsequent visits you’ll connect with your doctor for a mental health check-in, a skin cancer screening, and a genetics-based personalized lifestyle plan to optimize your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress strategies. Over time you’ll track your progress with follow-up visits and Forward app tools.
Forward follows all HIPAA regulations for the collection and maintenance of their members’ medical information and for communication members have with their physicians. The company prioritizes transparency and choice in members’ management of their own data. Because Forward works with 23andMe as well as outside laboratories and prescription providers, it advises members to review the privacy statements published by those companies. Forward encrypts all health data and commits to never selling members’ personal information.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service or product. For Forward and other health companies, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?
User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device, program, app, or website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?
Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?
Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?