What happens when you mix a San Francisco based technology company (a.k.a a company which is organized around the consumer) and the world of healthcare (which arguably has lost sight of the consumer / patient over the years focusing on the what – the symptom/disease, as opposed to the why – the underlying cause)? The answer is functional medicine and WellnessFX is at the forefront of this paradigm shift. If you love data, technology and are interested in a personalized and systems based approach to your health; you’ll enjoy this review which shares some initial thoughts on WellnessFX and the customer experience.
Having decided to baseline my biomarkers with a full range of lab testing earlier this year, I was delighted to receive an email from WellnessFX on August 14th regarding the further expansion of their service to include Arizona, Colorado and Texas. For those not familiar with WellnessFX, the company offers biomarker testing and until recently this was only available in California. [Update 8th April 2013: WellnessFx is available in the following states – Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.]
After signing up at WellnessFX.com/packages, [update May 13th 2014: use this affiliate link for a coupon discount and free account set up], the next step is to select a package and schedule a blood draw. For Arizona (and perhaps the other non CA states – unverified) WellnessFX Baseline is the only package available at this time. After identifying a nearby draw site, you are redirected to the Lab partners domain to schedule the appointment – LabCorp is the draw partner in AZ and scheduling can all be done online with ease. After the blood draw, which requires a 12 hr fasting period and no exercise or alcohol for 24 hours prior, you’ll be notified by WellnessFX when your labs are ready.
With the lab results in, it’s time to select a doctor and schedule your consult. During the consultation your doctor runs through your labs and provides a number of recommendations which are also posted on your profile. Subsequent testing, recommended every 90 days, allows you to monitor progress and see trends over time.
10 Good Reasons To Like WellnessFX
- Lab partner. WellnessFX has partnered with LabCorp to expand service to more than 300 LabCorp locations in the states mentioned above. From booking the appointment online to walking out of the facility with a piece of cotton wool taped to my arm – the entire experience was flawless. LabCorp gets a 10/10 for the cleanliness of the facility, brightness of the waiting room, honoring of the appointment – literally zero wait time, friendliness of the staff and professionalism – didn’t even feel the needle. Overall an excellent experience and while this is one data point it appears WellnessFX chose well. In contrast, I was recently at another draw site for a different program and waited over 40 minutes despite having an appointment. The waiting room was dingy and the staff all seemed to hate their jobs. Worse still the phlebotomist forgot to draw 3 of the requested tubes and I was called back in.
- End-to-end service. Have you ever been on the phone with a call center and one of the customer service rep. stays on the line with you to make sure your reason for calling is addressed as you are bounced from dept. to department. It’s a good feeling to know someone cares about resolution rather than simply bumping you out the queue and onto someone else. This handholding / work to resolution approach is how my experience with WellnessFX went. While I didn’t talk with anyone from WellnessFX, they have successfully integrated the core parts of the process enabling you to go from online to offline (armed with lab request paperwork which you print out) and then to a phone with your doctor of choice. The integration is classy – the consultation call for example is integrated with your profile where a countdown clock informs you of time remaining.
- Speed. I had my blood drawn on a Friday morning and received notification of the results having been reviewed by a practitioner and being published online at noon on Monday. Obviously as the service grows in popularity we’ll be able to see if this level of service is scalable however that’s impressive and faster than any labs I’ve had back before.
- User interface. The data visualization is fantastic. Lab results are complex and often confusing without supporting information. The team have found a way to present the results in a simple format (either summary or table) with descriptions allowing you to understand both the ranges and the marker itself. This is a significant change from the typical, “yes everything is fine.” Now you can actually see for yourself. Having this information available 24x7x365 and instantly on your iPhone is of great value. You can share the results with your trainer, family, other doctors or nutritionist for example. I must have lab results in multiple doctors offices in several countries. While I do have some copies they are certainly not all in one place and often one has to ask the doctor for the information. Not anymore.
- Price. Baseline is sold at $199 and this includes cardiovascular health, inflammation, metabolic and hormone, liver & kidney health, nutrition & electrolytes. This is on average twice the predictive biomarker diagnostics a doctor will order for an annual physical, includes a consultation with a doctor in the program of your choice, and action plan and the hosting of your results. See below for a limited time promo code.
- Content in the mobile app. The iPhone app is a gateway to a wealth of information on supplements and conditions. It offers a new way to research and stay upto date with the latest on supplements and allows you to build out your own plan. It is a classic version 1.x app so don’t expect the world and assume for now there is a backlog of new functionality written up and pending prioritization.
- Variety in choice of practitioners. I was pleased to be able to select from a choice of practitioners when scheduling the consult. I had 4 options available complete with bio’s offering a range of specialization including homeopathic, cardiovascular and general practitioners.
- Notifications. These work well and are thought through for example: after scheduling blood draws, posting of lab results, confirmation of consultation, reminder prior to consultation etc. Each of these arrived via email and were informative. In addition to email notifications a banner is also appended to your home screen which notifies you of your consultation and includes the date, time, doctors name and dial in details are conveniently display on your profile screen. This attention to detail really helps the experience and prevents you from having to change apps or click around to find the required information.
- Dedicated conferencing line. A conferencing line is assigned for your consultation which both you and your doctor dial into. This line is also integrated with WellnessFX platform providing notifications of the event and also a timer enabling you to see how long you have left for the consultation.
- Systematic approach to medicine. I was happy to see recommendations for food sources to address any deficiencies over supplements for example – eat 2 brazil nuts per day to increase selenium. WellnessFX is part of a new wave of medicine which is focussed on optimizing wellness systematically as opposed to treating sickness and symptoms.
Some points to watch for:
- Check your email! After my lab results were posted it was time to schedule the consultation. I spent several minutes trying to find a link to schedule the consultation. While I could review the doctors bio’s I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to schedule the appointment. Eventually I managed to do this by clicking on a link in the notification email (https://wwws.wellnessfx.com/consults/new). Including this prominently on the site would be useful.
- Enter your demographic information with care, as once you have entered it there is no way to edit or add to this information. Demographic information includes basics such as age, gender, weight and height, vitals, ethnicity, conditions, family history and lifestyle / diet.
- Prepare for the consultation. What issues are you having if any, what would you like to focus on? 15 minutes for the consultation seemed a bit rushed especially for the initial discussion where you need to establish a relationship and discuss history with your doctor. Scheduling the initial appointment for 25 minutes with a 5 min close and follow-up appointments at 20 minutes (15 minutes with 5 minutes for close) seems more appropriate.
My experience to date has been positive and this is a credit to the WellnessFX team. It’s exciting to think what the future holds for this service. Imagine if WellnessFX builds out it’s offering allowing customers to email in any lab report, which can be parsed and presented in the UI. For example, as a user I could collect all my historical or recent lab reports by trawling the file cabinet or contacting any doctor with whom I’ve had blood work done, scan and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The labs@ inbox would then match the message to my account (based on my email address), parse the data and add the results to my profile. This would provide me with a more complete profile of my health rather than starting it at the day I had my first lab work with WellnessFX. Obviously this type of decision will come down to strategic direction and priorities – in its favor, this idea positions the service as a goto resource for ones health profile and enables the company to grow the capture more of the market with an entry level read-only type service in markets while the grunt work of building the core service of doctors and labs is executed in the background.
In conclusion it’s amazing to think this is a business founded April 2010 and a platform launched in late 2011, especially given the multiple providers and touch points. In the end it all boils down to trust and simplicity:
- Trust. The focus on quality in partner selection be it doctors or labs is clear and well executed. There are some areas to address for example the mandatory opt-in to a recorded consultation for quality purposes should really be optional. Assuming this is solely for quality control purposes, participants can be incentivized to opt-in with a promo code offering a discount off future service, while the doctors can be kept in the dark as to whether the conversation is recorded or not. In addition given the sensitivity of the information collected, the company could do more to help users feel their data is protected from external as well as internal eyes and ears.
- Simplicity. The time WellnessFX has invested to deliver an end-to-end service oriented around the consumer is clear. You can feel this in the experience – it’s integrated and buttoned down allowing it to execute with clinical precision. There is some work to do on the site in terms of the user experience and some discussions to have in terms of optimizing functionality that is used and killing that which is not – see examples at the end of this post.
If you are interested in trying WellnessFX for yourself and found this review helpful do take advantage of this referral link for a discount currently running – you’ll receive a $20 discount and I receive a small credit for the referral.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post please take a minute and hammer away on the social share buttons or feel free to comment – both are great ways for me to obtain feedback. As a customer I’m obviously keen to help advance the service. Below are a number of product opportunities identified when using the service which can hopefully be considered:
- Product information. The only product information I could find was on the baseline package. I knew others were available – there is even an option to upgrade under settings > account information however there is no information on what the upgrade includes or is for that matter. It was only after receiving the survey post consultation did I find the list of packages. Being interested in fitness I’d like to include an Amino Acid profile, for example, to better understand overall nutritional status. I assume the package types are location specific however it would still be good to know what’s available / potentially coming downstream.
- Consistency in the overall experience. The rich level of information available in the mobile app for researching supplements and conditions is not available via the desktop experience. The mobile app has some form of gaming system where you can score points for doing certain things, however it is not explained or available on the full site and quite frankly doesn’t make any sense to me. The mobile app doesn’t have any notifications – it would be handy to know for example when the doctor submits the recommendations post consultation. The mobile app occasionally logs out, not sure if this is time based or a bug – it would be good practice to include a forgot password link on the sign in page of the app. The mobile app didn’t know about my scheduled consultation and was therefore unable to provide any notifications.
- When signed in, clicking on the WellnessFX logo in the top left bounces you out of the secure area and onto the public homepage. This is annoying if you want to get back to your profile home screen.
- Doctor / patient confidentiality? I didn’t like the following message which was in the consultation confirmation email: “We would like to remind you that this call may be recorded for purposes of our user study.” I understand the reasoning behind it but as mentioned this should be my choice. In its current form it creates an unnecessary trust issue.
- In the same consultation confirmation email the following statement didn’t make any sense, “Please note that you will not be able to view your lab results until your consult has started.”
- Basic iCal integration would be helpful for example the ability to add a scheduled appointment to your calendar or set reminders for 30, 60 or 90 day reminders for follow up labs.
Browse all WellnessFX diagnostic packages.