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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.

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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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The AI start-up on a mission to democratise IVF

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Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of AIVF
One in six people experience infertility globally, according to the World Health Organization. However, many couples are still unable to afford treatment. Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli fertility start-up AIVF, tells us how AI could democratise IVF and increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those struggling to conceive.

 

What is AIVF?

AIVF is an Israeli reproductive technology company transforming the fertility journey to be intelligent, accessible, and full of hope.

Based on scientific research and driven by real-world clinical use, AIVF developed a proprietary Fertility Operating System with automated embryo evaluation and deep learning algorithms to optimize clinical processes and improve patient outcomes.

Our solution, EMA, addresses two unmet needs in fertility. First, AI capabilities assist embryologists in their embryo evaluation, instantly identifying what the human eye cannot detect alone.

Second, with the integration of platforms, our single dashboard system streamlines all data in one place. From patient records to personalised embryo analytics, our platform connects the patient, lab, and clinic all in one place.

What is the story behind your company?

While writing my Ph.D. dissertation, it was suggested that my thesis could be a start-up. This field attracted me immediately. I believe being an embryologist is the most fantastic job in the world —using expertise to support individuals and families in bringing life into the world and homes.

While passionate about being an embryologist, I realised the more significant impact I could make is combining this with my previous experience using complex data to solve problems.

Knowing this field’s “ins and outs” made me realise there had been no significant progress and a lack of innovation for decades. I decided to jump right in, knowing I could make a difference for the better.

The move from embryologist to CEO of a start-up was a huge step, and I am constantly learning. My passion for helping bring children into the world remains the same. It’s my greater obligation to the world around me to create the next generation of IVF for clinicians, embryologists, and, most importantly, patients.

What makes your technology different?

The AIVF software algorithm was developed using hundreds of thousands of images and videos of embryos tagged with successful conception and leading to a normal pregnancy.

Currently, the programme can independently identify the embryos with the highest chances of developing into normal pregnancy.

The software AIVF developed identifies biological processes the human eye can’t detect. For example, the technology can spot mitochondrial ‘energy action’ directly linked to the embryo’s collapse or chances of implantation.

Unlike most deep learning algorithms, the AIVF platform identifies the patterns driving its actions and can explain its decisions.

It will mark, for example, that it has given a low score to a specific embryo due to disruptions or disorders found during its development, a different behavioural pattern at the cell division stage, or abnormal morphological appearance such as fractures.

How would your technology change the patient experience and fertility care more broadly?

On average, the IVF journey takes four years, seven cycles, and three miscarriages, costing an average of US$12,000 per IVF round.

By improving the embryologist’s capabilities in selecting the most viable embryo, there is potential for AI to help a patient conceive in one or two cycles. Our technology aims to minimise IVF’s financial and emotional costs by reducing the cost and time spent.

Additionally, our technology aims to add transparency to each patient’s IVF journey. While patients can access more information than ever, they make decisions based on a leaflet in the doctor’s office or a quick internet search.

Individuals need friendly and professional guidance to help them understand their journey’s complexities. Our integrated platform provides a window into the IVF lab and personalised analytics that help patients understand each step of the journey.

Where are you with the business now?

We are integrated with Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and Europe fertility clinics. So far, studies from our European clinics show that the platform has demonstrated a 70 per cent probability of success for embryos with a high EMA score.

The clinical studies also showed that EMA improved embryologists’ accuracy by 38 per cent and reduced the number of cycles to achieve pregnancy by 21.5 per cent on average. By improving embryologists’ accuracy, AIVF saves both time and money in the fertility journey.

What are your goals for this year?

IVF is one of the most important medical innovations in the last 50 years. Yet, the legacy technology used today in clinics can’t serve the 25 million women in the US who have limited or no access to fertility care.

At AIVF, we aim to use technology to make IVF efficient, accurate, and accessible to all who wish to grow their families.

Where do you see AIVF in five years?

Embryo evaluation using AI will democratise IVF by increasing access across underserved groups. More specifically, it will facilitate reduced costs by optimising our labour, laboratory performance, shorter time to a healthy, live birth of a singleton, and reduced failed cycles by not transferring embryos with a low chance of implantation (deselected embryos).

The promise of AI mitigated freedom for the computational embryologist is not just a new toolkit. It is the democratisation of high-quality IVF services. We call it IVF 3.0.

As we integrate AI technology into IVF practices and our work as embryologists and clinicians, the goals should remain the same: minimise costs and patient drop-out due to stress and financial fatigue while ensuring the highest quality patient care.

 

Daniella Gilboa is the co-founder and CEO of the AI technology start-up AIVF. As an IVF researcher, she is dedicated to advancing the science of using machine learning to optimise IVF processes. Gilboa is committed to driving the next generation of IVF technology and increase pregnancy success rates.

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The founder on a mission to help women find the perfect-fitting bra

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Valentina Biglia, founder and CEO at FindYourBra

When Valentina Biglia launched FindYourBra she had one mission in mind: to change the way women shop for bras. Driven by her grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, she set about creating a unique platform that would not only redefine women’s shopping experience but assist them with finding the perfect-fitting bra. She tells us all about it below.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I studied product design at the Politecnico of Turin, Italy. The idea of creating things from scratch has always fascinated me. Beauty and harmony are two characteristics that I seek and pursue.

I did a master’s degree in advanced interior design for commercial spaces at the IED in Barcelona. Products, fashion and the user experience in shopping are something I have always been passionate about, just as I am interested in philosophy, psychology and anthropology.

I studied gestalt, a branch of psychology, to better understand the behavioural patterns of human beings.

During my professional experience I had a parenthesis where I trained and worked as a bra fitter in a specialised lingerie shop in Barcelona. This experience changed my life and led me to founding FindYourBra.

What inspired you to create FindYourBra?

There are three main things that inspired me to create FindYourBra: firstly my personal experience with my body. I have never been satisfied with it, in particular with my breasts. I thought they were a “problem” until I found the right bra size.

On the other hand, I saw how finding the right bra size immediately changed the expression on the face of the people I was serving in the fitting rooms of the bra shop. At the same time I understood that the user experience was quite poor that any comment or look could create a trauma for them and that at that moment their self-esteem was at stake.

And, third reason, certainly not because of importance, is because of my grandmother. She has fought breast cancer twice, she has come out the winner again in November 2022.

She has been hiding her breasts every day for the last 30 years, fixing the breast asymmetry with socks stuffed with rice. She and other women like her inspire me every day to create a solution to help them get their lives back as soon as possible.

How would you describe your innovation in a few words?

The easiest, fastest and more intuitive way to buy bras online that suits you in total privacy and autonomy. A selection based on you, your measurements – taken with our patented measurement system – needs and preferences that changes as you changes.

No barriers, No measurements, No conversions, No size charts: just buy what fits to feel supported, comfortable and beautiful.

(more…)

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