Posted June 17, 2021

A Healthcare Internet, For Real This Time

A couple of years ago I declared that we were finally in the ‘Netscape era of healthcare’. Online appointment scheduling, telehealth visits, and digital payments — all signs of a healthcare internet, right?

Nope, I was wrong. It would have probably been more accurate to say that we’re still in the ‘BBS era of healthcare’. Remember those?

Bulletin board servers (BBSs) were individual cyber-islands for online communication, each with a separate login, content, and pool of users. One BBS had no context of a user’s activities across other BBSs, and you literally had to log into each BBS manually using different phone numbers.

It wasn’t until the Netscape browser came along that consumers had a single portal to the entire world wide web. Only then did your identity follow you across multiple online properties, with a universal inbox that consolidated your digital communications. The browser also implemented a baseline set of standard utilities (e.g. cookies, Javascript, SSL) that each website developer could reuse to execute some piece of functionality.

Today, our online healthcare system is more like a proliferation of BBSs than the internet. This is the core paradox of the digital health era. On the one hand, we’re increasing access to high-quality care through thousands of virtual clinics that can reach patients globally, continuously, at any time of day. On the other hand, we’ve exacerbated the fragmentation of our healthcare journeys by operating each of those digital health services as separate, walled gardens. And as we’ve discussed before, nearly every digital health company is building much of the same underlying infrastructure over and over again from scratch, which further diverts resources away from better patient and provider experiences.

Enter Zus Health — a digital health infrastructure platform that seeks to enable an entire generation of healthcare developers to spend their time building value at the clinical and experience layer, versus in commodity componentry. It aims to shift the healthcare industry from having to register new patients manually, to simply looking them up, and providing context beyond traditional medical record data. It seeks to enable continuous linkages between digital health experiences as patients engage with multiple providers.

There are numerous healthtech companies focused on patient data retrieval, identity management and clinical and administrative workflows. But until now, those layers of the stack haven’t been collapsed into a single platform, and the digital health ecosystem was too nascent to serve as a dedicated buyer set for these infrastructure products. There is also the new opportunity to convene the rapidly growing digital health builder community into a cohesive force, which increases the level of healthy competition, but also ups the game of the entire industry as a result. The Zus Health team is uniquely qualified to take these challenges on.

That’s in large part due to the fact that at the helm of Zus is the one and only Jonathan Bush (“JB”), who led the meteoric rise of our country’s first cloud-based healthcare platform, athenahealth. There, he influenced an early generation of healthcare techies to build atop “athenanet” through the More Disruption Please program, which was the industry’s first API developer program and the go-to assembly point for healthcare builders at the time. JB himself espoused a compelling grand vision of the Healthcare Internet in the dawn of the Affordable Care Act, and spent two decades laying down the rails to enable that vision, which now serves as an inspiring backdrop to these current endeavors.

We couldn’t be more excited that JB is back in the CEO/founder seat, and ready to propel us all into (and way past!) the true Internet Era of Digital Health. I’m thrilled to be leading Zus’s first financing round and joining its board as we build the definitive infrastructure and community platform for digital health builders.