Securing early intervention for preventable diseases and health conditions often proves challenging, given the lengthy waiting lists for doctor appointments in Germany and a hesitancy on the side of health providers to invest in diagnostic tests.
In response, Berlin startup Healthcares is changing disease prevention with a suite of disease prevention tools.
HealthCaters is making preventive healthcare convenient, fast and affordable through its dual-component product: a medical self-screening station and an AI-powered health coaching app.
The screening station allows people to test 27 health indicators with the support of a virtual health assistant. These include disease predisposition, blood pressure, cholesterol, EKG, heart rate, lung function, kidney and liver health; and sleep quality.
Results are immediately analysed in the app, which produces a 360° health assessment and concrete action points rooted in evidence-based medicine.
I spoke to co-founders Lily Kruse, a Yale-trained medical professional, and Tanya Eliseeva, an ex-VC and a former Head of Business Development at the German medical travel platform Medigo.
According to Kruse:
"Unfortunately, the mindset of treating symptoms instead of preventing disease remains the widespread norm in modern medicine. But health does not begin the moment we enter a clinic, feeling sick. It begins the second we are born and is shaped throughout our lives.
People are demanding transparency and knowledge on how to control health outcomes. People no longer want to be spectators in healthcare – they want to be drivers. Now more than ever."
Eliseeva contends that "empowering people to do it by themselves is the only way to go with the current medical system facing a lack of capacity.
She describes the health system as reactive, with early intervention and preventative care "bottlenecked by unwell people with appointment delays."
"We're trying to serve the people that the medical system would have turned away because they're not bad enough to be treated."
This includes people who may have biomarkers for common, preventable silent conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high blood sugar.
Further, HealthCaters offers a valuable "how-to" in customer acquisition and successful product iteration at speed.
Considering its successful market traction, it's hard to believe the company was only founded in 2021.
It started with a table from Ikea
The company's first clients were German health insurers. Kruse told me:
We began with a table. We went to IKEA, we got a desk and put medical devices on the desk. And then we would call the insurance companies and we said, 'We have a health kiosk, do you want to see it?' And they were like, "Sure".
So they came and saw this desk with devices and an iPad on a stand. We wrote the app ourselves with a no-code tool. And they were like, 'Wow, this is such modern technology. How can we cooperate?'"
Since then the company has developed its early ideas into a suite of products that have gained real traction. Health insurers have funds allocated for preventative health, and as Kruse explained,
"We really fill a gap. We don't just offer screenings. We analyse the data, create awareness, and involve the user in improving their health."
These tests can be hard to access in a busy doctor's consultation, which often ends in Germany with a health professional telling you to drink some herbal tea.
Eliseeva attributes HealthCare's success to its initial partnerships with the biggest German corporations. It helps companies like IBM, Barmenia, WeWork, and others monitor employees' health and reduce insurance costs.
The app removes the need for frequent doctor visits, lowering costs and ensuring user-friendly results with actionable recommendations for corporate workers.
"We would come on site and screen 300 people, or employees would screen themselves. That was a huge advantage in terms of the price we could offer to the company and the convenience."
This led to an interest which has enabled the company to crack the B2C market,
As Eliseeva explained, HealthCares was told by healthcare experts that it would never crack the B2C market and that "no one will ever pay out of pocket."
But the opposite has been true.
"We offer something at a price people can afford. We're not offering a product limited to an elite price point like a 50-week biohacking course for people who want to live until 100.
We have a straightforward tool that helps you get a regular basic checkup that you can't acess right now in Germany.
Why was everyone so convinced that healthcare is never going to be private in Europe, because it is going private with the current state of the medical system.
People realise that proactively taking control of their health is the most effective way to avoid illness and chronic disease."
A how-to in health startup fundraising
The company not only created a product with fast market traction and a strong customer base but has also raised funds despite the current economic downturn.
Eliseeva attributes this to the fact that the company solves a visible product experienced by many of their investors:
"You can't book a doctor appointment or, if you can, get the tests you need.
And I think for many investors, this financial incentive aligned with their personal wish and need to improve the world."
She also emphasised that the founders were more modest in approaching fundraising. "We didn't scream numbers and have nothing to show. We already had corporate traction, insurance company backing, and good product market fit validation.
From there, the company worked on iteration and product experience. Lots of startups spend more money on marketing than product development.
Eliseeva advises health startups:
"Don't spend €20k a month on marketing before you have a good product, and you don't need €50 million.
In the future, HealthCaters aims to integrate its tests with wearables and include other health data such as family history and genetic screenings.
The company is just about to open an offline drop-in location with screening stations in Berlin and holds pop-up events in cities throughout Europe. It also is planning for a UK expansion.
Lead image: The HealthCaters team via HealthCaters. Photo: Uncredited.