Ro launches Rory telehealth platform for menopausal women



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When telehealth startup Ro launched in 2017, like many of its competitors, it focused on men's health. But after a year and a half the company is now expanding its focus to include women and specifically a particularly deprived group of women: those entering or entering the menopause.

On Wednesday, the startup released its latest vertical version, nicknamed Rory, which targets women aged 45-65 who seek care, community and knowledge about menopause. The company says it is the first platform in the telemedicine industry – companies that provide remote medical care, usually through video chat – to reach middle-aged women.

"This has become a big need on the market," says Rachel Blank, who joined Ro to lead the Rory platform. "Menopause and puberty are the only things that all women will pass through at some point in their lives, but there are very few online resources."

Dr. Melynda Barnes, Rachel Blank and Zachariah Reitano, the team behind Rory.

Dr. Melynda Barnes, Rachel Blank and Zachariah Reitano, the team behind Rory.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 55% of women who go through menopause do nothing to resolve their symptoms. This is the need Rory hopes to solve; the service will offer videoconferences with doctors as well as prescription and over-the-counter treatments for hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia and loss of lashes – symptoms that do not always receive serious attention from health care providers in person. Video appointments cost $ 15 and over-the-counter treatment starts at $ 13.

"There is the idea that menopause and peri-menopause are not diseases, they are a normal biological change – so, because our professionals are very busy over time, they are focused on ensuring that women are getting mammograms and Pap smears ". says Melynda Barnes, a physician and associate clinical director at Ro. "These symptoms are viewed as quality of life concerns that can not be addressed personally due to time constraints."

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So Rory wants to intervene to fill the gaps. Patients enter their information on the platform and connect them to a physician through video chat. If the screening mechanism detects any symptoms that may be caused by a medical problem rather than menopause, it will be redirected to a provider in person.

While many of the technology startup employees working at Rory are younger than the platform's target demographics, some have experience with what the 43 million women they're trying to reach are going through. Blank was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome at age 22 and had similar hormonal symptoms. It is a story similar to that inspired by the co-founder of Ro, Zachariah Reitano; He experienced erectile dysfunction in high school as a result of heart disease. (ED is one of men's health problems, the company's vertical Roman addresses; its other channel, Zero, helps users stop smoking.)

But do women in this age group want to have their health care online? "They are asking Ubers to get to the airport, they are at Airbnbs, they are buying online, they are getting groceries," says Blank about the target audience. "They are very knowledgeable about technology. We have preconceived notions that they are not online, but they are very engaged. "

Ro's founders are not the only ones who see the potential in menopause. "There is a huge opportunity in the menopause space and many startups are not dealing with it yet," says Vanessa Larco, an investor for New Enterprise Associates who is not connected to Rory.

And the market makes sense to Ro. In contrast to some of its millennium-focused competitors, the average male health platform member Roman is 46 – many with partners around the same age already familiar with the platform. With this in mind, the goal of reaching 45- to 65-year-old women seems to be a logical extension.

Of the 130 employees working at Ro, aged 10 to 15 will be dedicated to Rory. The company has raised $ 91 million since 2017.

The founders and their team do not have immediate plans to expand into other categories of women's health. "The focus is on this demographics," says Barnes. But in such a needy market, there is plenty of room for expansion: treatment for bone health, greater variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications. "We're building something," Blank says, "to give women a voice they did not have before."

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