Women-owned and -led virtual providers could increase awareness and provide more comprehensive care for women’s health.
Awareness of the gender health gap has grown in recent years, with calls for more gender-sensitive care throughout the industry. While progress has been made, the telehealth industry has the potential to lead the way toward more comprehensive care for women.
Rachel Black is the founder and CEO of Allara, a telehealth provider specifically for women’s healthcare. The idea for Allara came from Black’s own frustrations from when she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and struggled to find the comprehensive care that she needed. PCOS affects one in seven women.
While Allara was able to secure venture capital funding, Black stated that only about 2% of venture funding goes to female led startups.
“If we think about increasing treatment and awareness for women’s health conditions, I think it can be hard for men because they don’t have the lived experience to know what it’s like,” she said. She added that if there aren’t women leading companies for women’s health, in venture funds investing into women’s healthcare, or even working at the insurance level, it can be hard to understand why women’s health is so important.
Black began to take her care into her own hands, doing research, learning how to manage her condition, and she found that many other women were struggling with the same issue.
“When we think about living with chronic conditions, you really need more touch points than just that annual [gynecologist] visit,” Black explained. “Women should still be seeing their primary care [gynecologist], their primary care providers; but, if you are a woman with high complexity care needs like PCOS, that’s just not sufficient for your care.”
She described Allara as an “add-on service” that offers specialty care for more complex, ongoing healthcare needs. Currently, Allara is focused on care for PCOS and endometriosis, but she hopes to grow Allara to treat more complex health conditions.
As a telehealth provider, Black sees Allara’s potential to connect women to expert specialists who they currently may not have access to. Noting the fact that there are only 1,300 reproductive endocrinologists in the U.S., for women who don’t live in major cities or reside in rural areas, it’s difficult to access the expert care they may need, she said.
After launching last year, Allara is currently servicing women in 15 states, working toward nationwide availability by the end of 2022, with over 15,000 women on its waitlist. Community building through educational social and digital content has been a large part of Allara’s growth strategy.
“The interesting thing about the conditions that we’re serving, PCOS and endometriosis, is [that] the pain point is so high that we have a captive audience of women who are desperately seeking answers, who are desperately seeking better resources, and have not been able to find them,” Black said.