Patient Diagnose Thyself: How Start-Up Buoy Health Will Help People Identify What Ails Them
During a shift in an emergency room, Andrew Le, MD, co-founder and CEO of Buoy Health, saw firsthand the shortcomings of self-diagnosing through Internet searches.
Dr. Le saw patients back-to-back at 2 a.m. The first was a woman who had jammed her finger weeks ago and decided the old wound needed care then and there.
The second, a man with a septic ulcer on his foot, had been convinced by online advice that the wound would clear. He eventually would have the foot amputated.
That juxtaposition between patients led Dr. Le to learn that Googling your symptoms is a “natural but, unfortunately, unsafe thing to do.” Information patients find online about their symptoms is “either convincing or accurate but never both.”
Then, Dr. Le’s own father became sick. He had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) but suffered longer than he should have before going to the hospital. He didn’t think online research would have revealed anything helpful.
His father’s injury led Dr. Le to take a sabbatical from medical school to launch the app that he hopes will give patients more personalized, accurate information.
In recent months, 120,000 people have tried out the app and Dr. Le was interviewed on the Today show by Kathie Lee Gifford.
For Buoy to become successful, Dr. Le knows people will need to kick the Google habit. “That’s such a tall order that the only way to break that habit is to become part of the habit.” To do that, Buoy will work with health plans and providers to build trust and drive people to use the product so they get a more personalized view of their health.
The company is in the process of licensing the product to hospitals and insurance companies that want to put it on their portals to help patients better navigate their healthcare. Ad revenue in the traditional sense is not an option, Dr. Le says.
Dr. Le’s vision is to eventually help usher 100 million people through their entire healthcare journey – collecting a database on each person that will help them make good decisions. “That’s an incredible feeling,” he says. Each day, he has the opportunity to “move the needle for all of healthcare.”