At the end of May 2010, my dad was a healthy 69 year old. He exercised nearly every day of his life and watched his weight and diet. He was the kind of guy who would say things like, “the best way to get to know a city is to run through it.” You know the type.
My dad had Afib, short for Atrial fibrillation. Afib is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, and other complications if left unchecked. It’s a fairly common condition—2.7 million Americans are currently living with it. My dad hardly ever mentioned his Afib, and I didn’t know much about it, including how crucial Coumadin (the anticoagulant blood thinning drug he took) was for treating it and managing his risk of stroke.
On June 1, 2010, my dad’s Coumadin protocol failed, and a huge blood clot blocked his carotid artery, leading to a massive stroke. I was devastated. It took him months to recover, and while he regained his independence, he suffered from speech impediments. For someone with the gift of gab, losing the ability to talk easily was a real blow. He spent the last eight years of his life trying to regain his speech until he passed away in 2018.
When I tried to understand how an otherwise healthy person with a common heart condition suffered a stroke out of the blue, I learned that Coumadin is a very effective drug, but that it has a narrow sweet spot of dosage for effectiveness that can change quickly, based upon factors including your diet or whether you’re taking unrelated drugs such as antibiotics for an infection. Because of this, people on Coumadin need to keep a close monitor on something called their INR (international normalized ratio) that measures the risk of their blood clotting in order to know how much of the drug to take. My dad would go to a clinic every few weeks to have his INR measured and Coumadin dosage updated. Unfortunately, every few weeks wasn’t frequent enough to catch the change in his INR level that resulted in his stroke.
After the stroke, dad was told that he now had a significantly higher chance of suffering a second stroke, so he would be given an INR meter to use at home. The device costs just a couple hundred dollars. It blew my mind that my dad’s stroke had earned him access to better information that could have helped us detect, and perhaps prevent, his stroke in the first place. Suddenly I was full of questions about how healthcare provides, or in my dad’s case withholds, information. I found myself wondering:
- How high does a person’s risk have to be to get access to potentially life-saving information?
- Shouldn’t people be consulted about their risk, the information available, and the associated costs?
More than anything, I wondered if affordable access to vital health information could have changed the outcome for my dad and so many other families like ours?
I spent a good amount of time over the next 5 years researching how information flows through the U.S. healthcare ecosystem, but mostly I discovered more challenges. As an entrepreneur, I started to think about building a product that could put health information directly into the hands of consumers in new ways I wasn’t finding in the market.
In 2016, I was ready to take action when my good friend and co-founder, Adam Singolda, came to me with the idea that ultimately became K Health. He told me about his own personal saga with healthcare, and we discovered that we were asking a lot of the same questions. We gathered a small group of technologists and doctors together and started discussing some pretty big questions:
- How can we make it possible for everyone to find personalized healthcare information?
- Can we redesign the primary care experience to prioritize the needs of the consumer?
- How could technology facilitate a better understanding of human disease by aggregating the collective wisdom of the medical community?
At K, we’ve spent the last three years building products and services to address those questions and create a better healthcare experience for consumers. We aspire to use data and technology to deliver smarter, more personalized healthcare information, and increase access to quality care that costs dramatically less and leads to better outcomes.
We still have a long way to go, but we’re excited about the progress we’ve made so far. In a world rightfully skeptical about new companies making bold claims about improving healthcare, we think it’s important to be hyper-transparent about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how it all works. Everyone at K has a personal story about how they or a loved one could have benefitted from this type of information and care—and we expect you do too. Come with us and peek under the hood to understand how K works and why it’s the most reliable starting point for taking control of your health.
Read on where my co-founder Ran Shaul explains how we deliver personalized health information for free.