White walls. You’re sitting on the hospital bed with that paper crinkling under you every time you shift around. It’s harder to focus on what the doctor is saying. The doctor just said the words “blood thinners” and your thoughts have already moved onto blood clots and heart disease. You snap back into the present and hear the words, “seventy-five milligrams”. Anxiety sets in. Wait, 75mg of what? When do I take it? We should probably go over my other prescriptions to check for interactions. What else did I miss....
Healthcare, at its core, is a series of stories. Patients tell them to other patients, patients tell them to doctors, doctors tell them to patients, doctors tell them to other doctors, patients tell them to their families, and so on. We know that humans are storytellers and yet the healthcare system is not conducive to storytelling. In fact, this complex industry is full of untold stories that get buried, cut short, and go unfinished.
Today these stories are shrunk into ten-minute appointments, with a clinician typing short-hand into electronic health records, converted into insurance codes, and slapped onto pill bottles, without anyone fully understanding what happened. When a patient story is fragmented, so is their healthcare and with nothing bridging the different pieces, there is a lack of understanding and trust. In line with our thesis of broadening access to wellbeing, we are looking for products to bridge this gap.
With this vision in mind, we are announcing our investment - alongside Pillar Ventures - in Abridge, a mobile product designed to record and document these often overwhelming medical conversations. It’s designed to shift agency to the smallest, and most important, unit in our healthcare system: people. When you use Abridge, the conversation with your clinician becomes your medical record. The output is a transcript and a unique audio medical record. Beyond improving medical outcomes, this type of service has the potential to create new trusted relationships between consumer and clinician by pushing control to users of health care.
The simplicity of the abridge experience can be captured in a gif:
People understanding and exercising their right to record can work to reverse the complexity of health care by putting direct control in individuals’ hands, quite literally: “You record. Your record.'' Abridge makes time spent in a doctor’s office or hospital more meaningful by bridging the unspoken information and comprehension gap between consumer and clinician.
Spending time with the Pittsburgh-based Abridge team - a mix of creatives, audio enthusiasts, machine learners and engineers - convinced us that these are the people who can build this product. Each one of them shows unique conviction in the long-term vision of empowering people at scale because besides their careers, they are patients, caregivers, and clinicians as well. To that end, every member of Abridge takes a version of the Hippocratic Oath to convey that their mission first and foremost is to serve patients.
The Abridge team firmly believes that the efficiency and efficacy of the healthcare system can be rebuilt if everyone has the ability to record, save, and share their personal health stories. And USV does too.”
If the last decade has been a time of digital abundance--more followers, more “friends,” more apps--2019 looks to be the year of paring down. 2018 saw the first significant decline in time spent on site for Facebook. Users are deleting the app and replacing it with tools to track screen time. But our desire to find community and connection, and to leverage technology to do so in more effective and efficient ways, hasn’t changed. As a result, the coming years will likely be a time of renewed opportunity in new forms of social systems, the kind that has been difficult to come by during the major platforms’ ascension and dominance.
This is not to say the incumbent platforms are going anywhere anytime soon. But there is likely to be a splintering significant enough to create new startup entrants with the chance to own consumer needs.
This splintering seems to be happening for two central reasons:
So what now?
The next wave of social systems will likely emphasize breadth and depth differently than the last--and may not look much like social networks at all. With the current networks, the horizontal nature of the platform is the product. Users come for the community. But it may be that with the next, the community is what keeps users long term engaged but is formed around another intent. Come for an action, stay for the community.
These platforms are likely to have four core things in common:
If you are working on a business involving this new evolution of community, I’d love to learn more.
*ShopShops, Duolingo & Dia & Co are all USV portfolio companies”