Virtual Clinics are Battling Inequalities in Women’s Health | WIRED

In 2022, health care startup Maven became the first unicorn in the femtech sector after raising more than $250 million from a star-studded roster of investors including Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, and Reese Witherspoon. The company provides virtual clinic services for women and families across a range of areas such as fertility, maternity and newborn care, pediatrics, and menopause, and also provides financial help and mental health support. It has more than 15 million members enlisted in over 175 countries.

Maven is end-to-end. “You can have that continuity of care, no matter what your path,” says Kate Ryder, its CEO. “For example, we’re currently supporting a woman in London who enrolled in our fertility track. She experienced a pregnancy loss about eight weeks into the pregnancy and now she’s back in our fertility track and we’re helping her with cross-border egg donation between Spain and the UK.”

The startup was founded in 2014 by Ryder, then an associate at venture capital firm Index Ventures in London. “I was hovering around digital health at the time and the one thing that everyone was trying to crack was patient engagement,” she recalls. “But a lot of the consumers of these companies at the time were female, and no one was really focused on their health.”

Unfortunately, the data, even today, shows evidence that women’s health care needs are still by and large neglected. Just consider that one out of five women suffer from postpartum depression but don’t get the necessary mental health support, or that four in five women who go to their doctor to talk about menopause don’t get the care they need, according to the UK Department of Health and Social Care.

That’s the gender health gap that Ryder wants to fix. According to her, Maven provides more than 6,000 appointments every week, with members usually getting appointments in less than one hour and having the option to be paired with their preferred experts. Last year, Maven published peer-reviewed studies in the medical journal The Lancet proving the effectiveness of their model: For example, patients who have met a virtual ob-gyn saw a 4.2-times reduction in visits to the ER, while first-time mothers who go through Maven’s maternity care programs saw a 27 percent reduction in C-section rates. “We’ve gone through objective claims analyses to really see if a virtual model affects outcomes,” Ryder says. “What we’re seeing is that the magic comes when we put all the pieces together.”

This article appears in the July/August 2023 edition of WIRED UK magazine.

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