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Roe v Wade: How telemedicine could transform reproductive and abortion care

Telemedicine clinics are expecting increased demand for reproductive care after right to abortion overturned

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Following the US Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, millions of Americans in half of the states will no longer fully possess rights to health and bodily integrity. We sat down with Choix’s CEO, Cindy Adam, to find out how the telemedicine clinic aims to help patients access reproductive and abortion care safely and legally.

 

FemTech World: What is Choix?

Cindy Adam: Choix (pronounced “choice”) is a telemedicine clinic that provides abortion care and other reproductive and sexual healthcare services such as emergency contraception and birth control.

We believe everyone should be free to make their own decisions about their bodies, their families, and their futures and we empower patients to get safe and affordable abortion care. All that’s needed is a phone or computer.

FTW: How did you establish Choix?

CA: Before launching Choix in the autumn of 2020, our providers were delivering contraceptive care via telehealth at other organisations and noticed a lack of abortion care provision, despite a solid and growing evidence base showing the safety of efficacy of the telehealth model.

Our founders came together to create the first asynchronous telehealth clinic providing abortion care – which has an efficacy rate consistent with in-person care, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association The focus was and continues to be on both the patient and provider experience of a telehealth platform because telehealth must be compassionate, easy and private.

So, we founded Choix with a vision of using telemedicine to expand access for all people who seek safe and affordable abortion care from the privacy of their own homes.

FTW: Why is Choix different?

CA: Our patients can communicate with us on their schedule via regular or encrypted text, depending on their preference. No appointments necessary. Core to the Choix offering is the experience of our founding clinicians in both the reproductive healthcare and telemedicine spaces. These forces combined allowed us to create a platform that centres both the patients and the providers.

Further, our medical leadership team’s continued participation in direct patient care allows us to implement recommendations from our providers to improve the provider and patient experience in real-time – recommendations that might take much longer to improve in other organisations.

There is also peace of mind for patients when they know their providers are experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy. This is especially true for the abortion space, which carries a lot of stigma and where few patients have access to readily available information before they begin seeking abortion care.

FTW: Why is it important for women to have access to emergency contraception?

CA: It is essential for women and people with periods to have access to full spectrum reproductive health care – including abortion and all forms of contraception. This critical care is key to their overall health and quality of life, and there are significant medical, economic, and social benefits that come with access to care including:

    • Greater financial stability and independence
    • Lower rates of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), teen pregnancies, HIV, gynaecological cancers, and complications caused by untreated STIs
    • The ability to treat painful periods, menstrual regulation and other non-contraceptive health benefits that come with access to hormonal contraception
    • Improved maternal health – fewer women dying in childbirth or experiencing severe complications
    • Safer abortions completed earlier in the pregnancy

FTW: How does Choix help women access abortion care at home?

CA: Choix currently serves women and people with periods in the states of California, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico. Our patients begin care by completing an online medical questionnaire and creating a patient portal account after which they will be contacted by one of our clinicians.

Once the patient is approved for care, medications are shipped to them via Choix’s partner pharmacy, Honeybee Health. The patient is also sent educational materials and a video content to help them prepare for the process. We check in with patients through follow-ups and support patients throughout the process and we aim to help ease some of the financial, physical and emotional stresses that can come with in-person care by providing private, discrete and non-judgemental care at home. Through telemedicine, we aim to help expand access to care by saving patients both time and money.

FTW: As more than half of the US could ban abortion, what can clinics like Choix do to support women?

CA: It’s important for clinics to support all people seeking abortion care. We are prepared to meet the increased demand for medication abortion as a result of restrictions and bans on abortion care, and we are certainly seeing an increase in the number of people traveling from banned or restricted states.

Our platform allows us to scale quickly and efficiently and we are focused on growing our provider team to support the increased need for telehealth abortion care. Telemedicine clinics can also alleviate capacity issues in states that are seeing an influx of patients from states where abortion is banned or restricted, helping local clinics to reserve in-person visits for patients who require or prefer in-person care.

Choix can also help people coming to the states we are licensed to offer care – currently California, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico. As with all healthcare, state residency is not a requirement for accessing care, but people do need to be in the states we serve for their telehealth visits and in order to receive medication.

FTW: How does Choix help opening up the conversation around women’s health and abortion care?

CA: Many people are still learning about the safety and efficacy of medication abortion in general, and the knowledge gap is even greater around medication abortion via telehealth. Ensuring that people are aware of the safety, reliability, and availability of abortion pills – both in-clinic and via telehealth –  is equally important. Sharing this essential information is something we at strive to do and we all can and should do.

FTW: What feedback did you get from those who accessed your services?

CA: We send a follow-up survey aftercare and we have got wonderful feedback from our patients both from a data and direct feedback perspective. This data is collected and shared with permission from our patients and has been made anonymous. On average, our patients score us a 4.6 out of 5 – with 5 being “perfect” – and 98 per cent of them would recommend Choix to a friend.

FTW: What are your ambitions for Choix for the next five years?

CA: Choix will continue to expand to every state where we can safely and legally provide abortion care, and our goal is to be in every single one of those states by the end of 2023. We will be expanding our sexual and reproductive healthcare services to include testing and treatment for sexually transmitted and vaginal infections. We are also working to connect with corporations who want to offer abortion care and sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits to their team members.

For more info, visit mychoix.co.

Q&A

Femasys founder Kathy Lee-Sepsick on entrepreneurship and the need for innovation in women’s health

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Kathy Lee-Sepsick, founder and CEO Femasys

Kathy Lee-Sepsick, founder and CEO of the biomedical company Femasys, opens up about her entrepreneurial journey and what nearly three decades of experience as a top medtech executive have taught her.

Could you tell us about your background and how you got into women’s health?

I spent 10 years in various leadership roles at medtech companies focused in the cardiovascular and orthopaedics specialties. During this time, I realised how underserved the women’s health area was in comparison and the available solutions for reproductive health needs, specifically in permanent birth control were unsuitable.

With inventions that I felt were revolutionary to address the unmet needs in critical areas of reproductive health, I made the decision to start Femasys in 2004.

What inspired you to create Femasys? 

I was inspired by my daughters and desire to create solutions that would offer women suitable reproductive health options in areas that have seen little-to-no innovation.

In addition to realising a widespread global need, I personally faced the same challenges as others when I encountered inadequate options for my own reproductive care. I believe Femasys has the potential to create lasting change.

How would you describe Femasys in a few words?

Femasys is a female-founded and led biomedical company focused on empowering women worldwide as they seek solutions throughout their reproductive journeys by providing revolutionary products that are affordable and accessible.

How would you describe the impact and importance of your work?

Technological advancements in female reproductive health are long overdue, which has driven our focus to develop in-office, accessible, and innovative options. The work we are doing in infertility and permanent birth control are game-changers and have the potential to transform the landscape for women, couples, and their families.

Our work is so important because no one else is focused in advancing these much-needed technologies, which has the opportunity to impact women for generations to come.

People may be thinking ‘How is Femasys transforming women’s healthcare worldwide?’. What’s your response to that?

The product solutions we are advancing address issues women are facing worldwide. We are dedicated to not only helping women here in the US but around the globe as we work to amass country approvals for our product initiatives.

As a small emerging company, the allocation of resources and funds for this effort demonstrates our commitment.

What is the best part about being an entrepreneur in this space? 

It is hard pressed to find a space in healthcare that is this neglected, so the best part is knowing every day that the work we are doing has the potential to make such a significant impact worldwide. Executing on our mission is a constant responsibility that bears immeasurable satisfaction as we achieve our goals.

What is your greatest achievement since establishing Femasys?

My greatest achievement since establishing Femasys is making our products available to women in the US and other countries outside the US as we gain regulatory approvals of our important technologies.

This includes FemaSeed for the next generation of artificial insemination, FemVue for diagnosis a woman’s fallopian tubes with ultrasound, and FemCerv for obtaining a comprehensive tissue sample for diagnosis of cervical cancer.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

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‘Tamagotchi with a twist’- the device you didn’t know you needed

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Tired of apps? Enter IMMI, the period tracking device you didn’t know you needed. 

The IMMI tracker is a device that can learn to track and monitor your menstrual cycle without an app or smartphone.

The gadget, which doesn’t require internet connectivity, is suitable for any geographies, communities and ages and promises to positively impact women’s sense of agency, body literacy and overall self-esteem and mental health. Founder and CEO, Sarah Cottee, tells us all about it below.

How would you describe IMMI in a few words?

IMMI is building simple, private, fashionable menstrual tracking consumer products that don’t require internet connectivity to work; think tamagotchi that also warns you when your period is due!

What inspired you to create IMMI? 

I was working in private philanthropy, funding social enterprises throughout South East Asia and living in Manila, where I saw firsthand the lack of access to education that women and girls had.

Around the same time I had come off hormonal birth control and was on my own journey of getting to know my body and cycle.

I was very concerned with the privacy limitations of the period tracking apps, so I set out to create a solution that mitigated my worries, and was accessible to women and girls everywhere. 

Sarah Cottee, founder and CEO of IMMI

My passion for women’s health, however, runs in the family. My grandmother, an Irish midwife living in Liverpool, taught women in the local community about cycles and fertility, and worked closely with the University of Birmingham on early, pioneering research they were doing in this space. 

As you were building IMMI, what was the need you identified?

It was two fold; the average age that girls download period tracking apps is 21, and considering they start their periods around age 12, this is a huge gap where they’re not learning about their body, their emotions and their mental health in relation to their cycle.

Secondly, I kept hearing that people who were using apps were either fed up with how much data they were being asked to enter and experiencing “app fatigue”, or concerned with their data being stored on the cloud.

Consumers wanted something low-lift, smart, but that enabled them to keep their data private.

What makes IMMI different?

It doesn’t require an app and all the data is locally stored on the tracker itself, however it’s still “smart”.

We’ve increased the memory so it stores each cycle data, and our algorithm continuously calculates a rolling average. This means that your tracker learns your unique average cycle length making the period predictions more accurate over time.

You also have the ability to “reset” the tracker and clear its memory if needed. With our new design, you can attach it to your keys, purse or bag so that it’s always with you.

People may be thinking ‘How is IMMI helping women better understand their bodies’. What’s your response to that?  

IMMI is designed to empower women by simplifying how they track and understand their menstrual cycles. We started by asking, “Why is it easier to know the date on the calendar than the day of your menstrual cycle?”

Our goal is to make tracking your menstrual cycle as straightforward as checking the time and date. By providing a tool that integrates this aspect of health into daily life, IMMI empowers women to recognise their body’s own unique signals, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves throughout their reproductive years.  

How would you describe the impact and importance of your work?

In a time where women’s health data is being weaponised, providing an option that puts privacy first is vital. IMMI allows women to track and learn about their cycle without any concerns that their data might be shared with a third party. 

Furthermore, we worked with one of the UN Agencies to conduct a pilot and see the impact of IMMI on girls in emerging markets who don’t have access to accurate, trustworthy information, leaving them vulnerable to, social exclusion, dropping out of school or unplanned pregnancy.

Over the six months of the trial, the proportion of women and girls who said they knew the expected start date of their period leaped from 58 per cent to 81 per cent in the Republic of Moldova, and from 47 per cent to 82 per cent in Burkina Faso.

Girls reported a significant decrease in anxiety from having this information accessible, and others said they were finally able to talk to their mum about this topic. 

What is the best part about building IMMI and being an entrepreneur in this space? 

Meeting incredible innovators! I get to meet the most inspiring men and women all over the world who are pushing forward the female health agenda and providing solutions that are truly novel and useful, allowing women to lead a more integrated and empowered life.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

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#FromBerlinWithSolidarity: period tracking app Clue on reproductive rights and data privacy

Femtech World sat down with Clue chief product officer, Rhiannon White, to find out more about the company’s latest campaign

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To mark the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v Wade, the German period tracking app Clue has launched a powerful campaign.

From Berlin With Solidarity, a passion project by American Clue users and advertising creatives Amy Char, Heather Patterson, and Ashley Milhollin, aimed to bring attention to the very real fear of reproductive surveillance faced by women in US states where the loss of reproductive rights means people are afraid their health data could be used to prosecute them for seeking abortion.

The campaign, which featured bold billboards in the US and humorous posters in Berlin, was, in co-CEO Audrey Tsang’s words, directed at sparking a conversation about the importance of privacy rights for equal healthcare.

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