More than a decade ago, I met a man who would one day set out to change medicine. Nothing predisposed him to this….he knew nothing about medicine, or at least no more than you and me. At the time Allon Bloch was the co-CEO of Wix (NASDAQ: WIX) and busy building what would one day become Israel’s most successful Internet company.
I met Allon again in 2016. After leaving Wix, he had built Vroom (NASDAQ: VRM) and now had a new idea. Websites and cars were fine, but he wanted to take on a truly existential problem: healthcare. In his mind, medicine was blocked by an archaic care delivery model, one where access to doctors was a privilege and where quality was extremely uneven. To him, medicine and its delivery system would simply never live up to the needs of a global population of 8 billion people. In our many conversations, he would point to two overriding problems:
Lack of innovation. Current medical protocols were antiquated and had not really changed since 1950. He pegged it in the 1950s because that was when the Framingham Heart Study proved that a) cholesterol can impact your heart, b) smoking and heart disease are connected and c) sedentary lifestyle is bad for the heart. In reality, he was being generous by saying the 1950s, in truth the experience of going to a doctor has not changed in hundreds of years.
Untenable costs. Healthcare expenditures represented 17% of US GDP and 10% of European GDP in 2019 with the pyramid of age suggesting continued spiralling higher costs. Nothing short of a technological and mindset revolution was needed to break the cycle.
I found it astonishing that someone without formal medical training could be thinking about how to solve this problem. To him it was not about medical knowledge. He could easily learn it and surround himself with medical practitioners...it came down to being able to re-imagine the healthcare experience and the ability to build a new generation of tools to help refocus medicine and its delivery system.
By leveraging AI and Big Data, he set out to teach a machine the language of medicine. The starting point was a database of 2 billion health events recorded by thousands of doctors over 20 years. Using natural language processing (NLP), he created a robust medical ontology immediately rendering the machine statistically more complete than any human brain. In doing so, he hoped to make medical ontologies and medical protocols dynamic and self-learning and dramatically lower the cost of delivery through automation. A revolution by any other name.
The machine he built is manifested in an app called "K". It is infinitely scalable, always on and always up to date. The same can't be said of humans. Consider a comment made by Martin J Sepulveda during a speech at Harvard Medical School in December of 2016: “In science, the term “half-life” refers to the time it takes for a quantity of a substance to reduce itself by one-half. Today, the half-life of medical knowledge is currently about 18-24 months, and it is projected that in about four years that half-life will be only 73 days.“ A strong case for medical automation indeed.
What Allon has built is nothing short of remarkable in scope and ambition, yet the journey is still in its infancy. The company's core belief is that "K" will automate most acute and chronic care, while delivering differential diagnosis and personalised treatment. They expect that 80% of all healthcare can be done remotely and much of this without ever being in contact with a human and at massive cost savings for the world's healthcare systems. Of course none of this can be done alone and early strategic partnerships with Mayo Clinic and Anthem in the United States have emboldened the team and reinforced the ideal that K Health is at the centre of an existential revolution.
The idea of automated care in 2016 was almost unthinkable. Indeed for some it was even offensive. It takes a rare set of skills to completely think out of the box as well as a unique drive to willingly take on such a challenge. It also requires confidence and conviction.
Allon has a boatload of both.
He has the ability to see through problems like few entrepreneurs I have known. A true multi-disciplinarian with an open mind and an eye for detail, he best exemplifies the true innovator. Add to this, uncompromising altruism and he is the best reflection of the person we all should want to become.