Alongside scissors and clippers, Live Chair is bringing health screening tools like temperature scanners and blood pressure cuffs to barbershops in Baltimore.
Two years after moving to Baltimore, the startup is growing work with barbers to spread health awareness among Black men, who on average die five years earlier and stand at higher risk of hypertension than their white counterparts. Through a new partnership with LifeBridge Health, the company is adding a health provider to the mix and expanding to more than 20 new barbershops in the Northwest Baltimore area.
The company’s progress to date offers a look at a unique model that meets people where they are to deliver healthcare and the links across a local entrepreneurial community that can help startups move forward.
Barbershops are a place where folks visit regularly, and they serve as a key community gathering point where you find out what’s going on. Many of the men are also uniquely close to their barbers. Seeing that Black men are less likely to visit a doctor, Live Chair CEO Andrew Suggs and his team hit on a model that added health checks to its booking and management platform, which is already used by 600 barbershops in 27 states.
With a kiosk and screening tools available at barbershops, Live Chair’s technology collects data to help catch signs of potential disease, as well as providing health recommendations and enrolling patients in specific programs. Key to the system is the barbers themselves, who agree to implement the platform and serve as health advocates with the customers. They also receive compensation, creating an “economic win-win.”
“If the barber deems that this is a good thing to do, then that’s the meat and potatoes,” Suggs said.
Last year, the company set out initially providing training to the barbers, as well as blood pressure cuffs and scales for weight. It looked to catch the signs of heart disease and diabetes.
With the onset of COVID-19, the company moved in the pandemic to offer infrared temperature checks with text recommendations, and the kiosk has a questionnaire that can provide key info if a reading is high. That’ll be the initial focus of the new expansion. For Live Chair, it means additional support and education that they can offer to the barbershop customers, while LifeBridge will offer connections to testing and screening tools as well as PPE. The COVID-19 tools will be implemented in a first phase, while the second phase will involve the chronic disease screening that Live Chair initially developed.
Suggs called the provider partnership “the next leg in the chain” for the company, allowing Live Chair to offer connections to care, as well as understand its impact in the community. LifeBridge, too, sees it as being important for reaching people in the community and understanding how to develop effective solutions for that population.
“As they’re working, they’re actively generating interest and finding those individual barbershop clients who could benefit from services and programs in the near future and programs we might have at LifeBridge Health,” said Adam Beck, director of digital health at LifeBridge Health. It can help to explore, “How do we make it easy and seamless for those individuals to opt in, to seek out services from LifeBridge Health?”
And it’ll help Live Chair expand from its initial three barbershops where the health product was live. Going forward, the team of three full-time and five part-time employees is also looking to scale to other states.
The health product started in Maryland.