Startup Spotlight: Keen Health

All Things Venture #015

Hey Everyone - Dez here from Apex Venture Studios. Let’s just go ahead and dive right in. First things first. Tomorrow, is Thanksgiving, why is this important? Well to start, I personally view Thanksgiving as an opportunity to reflect, decompress, and spend quality time with family. Undoubtedly, Thanksgiving is a period of time where I feel generally thankful and appreciative as well. Usually, the things I am thankful for are pretty straightforward - I’m thankful for my family, my friends, my community. That being said, just like with everything else in 2020, this year is different. This year I’m explicitly thankful for my health and the health of my friends, family, and community. It’s honestly disheartening to realize that I won’t spend tomorrow with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and maybe even more sobering is that fact that, as you get older you realize more and more just how special those moments can be. The one thing that this pandemic has laid bare is that without your health, or the health of your family, friends, and community - there is truly a gap in what you can enjoy in life. That’s a tough pill to swallow. What’s even tougher is also realizing that, for millions of Americans, having the peace of mind that their health will be taken care of if they do get sick - isn’t a foregone conclusion. All in all, what’s become increasingly clear to me is that healthcare and individual health is an important, understated aspect of life and a sector of the economy that should be addressed with the utmost care, empathy, and expertise.

And this is exactly where Keen Health comes in. Keen Health was co-founded by two brothers, one of whom, Kyle Brown, is a close friend and former teammate of mine. (We played basketball at Cornell together). Together, they are looking to create the simplest practice management system for the Direct Primary Care market. Said another way, these guys are working hard to ensure that physicians can spend less time worrying about time consuming administrative tasks, and more time focusing on what matters - delivering quality health care for their patients. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kyle to talk about Keen, the state of the DPC market, and the tech they’re building.

APEX: What is Keen Health?

Kyle: In order to understand why Keen exists you need to understand a little about the medical care industry. Right now, the way it works is that if you want to see a family doctor, you need to have insurance. Right now, you’ll sit and wait for 15 min to an hour to see a doctor. You’ll get 5 – 10 minutes to the doctor, and it’s not a great experience. On top of that there’s insurance. There’s a new kind of family doctor, it’s called a direct primary care doctor – instead of going to direct to a family doctor, you pay a subscription to the doctor and you have unlimited access to the doctor. DPC is trying to change the way medicine is delivered. For every hour that a doctor delivers medicine they spend around an hour/two hours writing notes for insurance. With that, we want to build a new EMR for doctors – right now for doctor’s it’s some clunky windows ’98 style product. Our value proposition for DPC doctor’s is being the simplest EMR to use – so really, we want to be the simplest practice management to use. Scheduling appointments, reminding patients, placing patient communications in feeds. Example – Ezra gets strep every February. The coolest thing about this is it doesn’t replace insurance – it is supposed to be supplemental. People will have Coop – and DPC together. DPC is everyday medical care. One of the driving forces behind Keen – is we hope that everyday medicine is revolutionized by the DPC trend. We want to be the software for the next 2,000 DPC physicians

APEX: What led you to starting Keen Health?

Kyle: I am one of the 2 cofounders, Brad Brown my brother is starting his DPC practice in about two months – he is one of the new generations of doctors coming out of medical school who wants to help that industry grow. He is also of a different generation of doctors used to having software working for him rather than against him. Basically, what happened was my brother was in a rotation and he messaged me saying, “this software is horrible – we can do better.” The first 6 months I was working on its kind of died off, 6 months later we picked it back up – and since then have probably averaged 10 years 

APEX: From a product perspective what are some of the technical challenges you’ve had to face?

Kyle: The first hurdle was security that was hurdle A and B which is par the course for healthcare. The first thing I did was bring in a senior security engineer to help design a high-level approach for the product. That was probably the first technical hurdle, the second big technical challenge was figuring out how to fit all of this together? How do we make a system that is maintainable for developers, and useable for doctors? And that even occurs today – I am still rearchitecting parts of the platform. Beyond that, the next parts are to nail down requirements that are more of a blend of business and technical requirements and outside of that the largest challenge we’ve had as a company is getting it to market – we have customers lined up ready to use the product

APEX: What was it like getting some of those pre-product customers?

Kyle: One of our backers is one of the first DPC practioners. He helps us define the product and helps us get very granular on the product. He’s going to be our first customer who has a big practice. Insurance based practices typically have 4000 – 7000. DPC practices typically have 500 – 700 patients

APEX: What have you learned about building software for the healthcare industry?

Kyle: I have learned that there is a balance between delivering a product at speed and delivering a product with zero technical debt. Said another way, there’s a balance between doing it perfectly, or doing it quickly. I’ve learned to be less strict so we can deliver quicker, so I’m not sure if that’s specific to healthcare but definitely something I’ve learned 

APEX: What defines success for Keen over the next few months?

Kyle: Over the next 2 months – we are going to have a soft launch of our MVP product for our co-founder to sign up patients in Keen. Sign up patients, track interactions, track them through the system, and all of the other core functionality. The next 6 months is to fully launch and start setting up practices