It is my honor to introduce the Click here">changes to Gennev to support 38M women in menopause in the U.S!
Gennev began in 2016, and through its evolution became the first-ever online clinic for women in menopause with telehealth services, products, and education.
As any startup company knows, you build the technology from the ground up until you understand what consumers will use and if they will pay for your services.
Gennev has been on that journey. We have supported millions of women who have consumed our education, engaged 60,000 through the Gennev Menopause Assessment, and have provided telehealth services, memberships, and products to thousands who need quality health care.
Today we’re moving from our “starter” technology platform to the new Gennev – a more secure intelligent platform that is re-imagining the way women manage menopause help.
What changes is the technology that powers our menopause care for women: it now delivers an improved user experience, a more secure and flexible data architecture, and a platform for extreme growth. What doesn’t change is our mission to empower women to take control of their health in the second half of life…starting with menopause. Because we have millions of women yet to serve.
As a woman, a mom, and Gennev’s VP of Technology, I’m proud of what we’re delivering today. I’m excited about what it means for millions of women. I’m proud to be building a platform for myself, a 44-year-old woman who is pre-menopausal.
For women who care about quality healthcare, this article will share how we’re empowering you to take control of your health. For the technology and health care enthusiasts reading this article, I share my fundamentals for building customer-first digital health platforms for the masses during COVID-19 times. And for the nay-sayers who never thought digital health for menopause could be a viable business, we’re just getting started.
How do you build a platform for talking about something society doesn’t talk about?
When I came to Gennev a year ago, that was the task I was facing: reimagining and building a platform for one of the biggest remaining societal taboos. Menopause.
Gennev CEO Jill Angelo asked me to find a way to connect menopausal women to health care providers, products, education, and community through a safe, intelligent recommendation engine. Sort of like Amazon can forecast our consumption for products. Gennev wants to keep women in the know for what they will need throughout the menopause journey.
Because Gennev was an early start up, the telehealth and ecommerce platform built up to that point didn’t have the flexibility or the power to handle current needs, much less the exponential growth we were experiencing.
Looking back, my work history has always been grounded in helping others.
As a young engineer, I started my career managing customer tech support at an internet-connectivity startup. Then came September 11, 2001; I was working in lower Manhattan. That traumatic experience really catalyzed my desire to use my career to improve the lives of others.
I was interested in health and health outcomes, so I went back to school for a Master’s in Public Health. I moved to Seattle because there were so many opportunities in public health. I merged my passions for computer science and public health when I landed a role at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center. I created a new online data sharing program for HIV vaccine trials.
I worked in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease division, then moved to Central IT to work on clinical data repositories for cancer researchers, including data visualization tools. Then my team started building an informatics department. None existed at Fred Hutch before, but we really wanted a way to accelerate research that utilized the cancer patient data.
It took a lot of interviewing researchers and medical providers to understand what they needed to get the right tools and data into their hands for their research. But I learned an exceptionally valuable lesson there, one that seems so easy but is so rarely employed: listen to the end user.
There was a lot to parse out. What did it mean to enable meaningful use of medical record data? How could we implement technology systems and stay within regulatory frameworks? How could we keep data safe, but still make it accessible; how could we comply with federal law and patient best interests, when sometimes they seemed at odds?
When data is siloed in a bunch of different places and systems that not only don’t connect, they often don’t speak the same language, bringing it together, making it useful, and keeping our own biases out of it is tricky business. But I learned some invaluable lessons there about how to respect the need for data security while meeting the need for useful access to that data.
After ten years in health care research, I was feeling disconnected from the patient experience. I couldn’t have as tangible an impact as I wanted if I didn’t understand the patients’ perspective. So I moved into consumer health care.
I joined Providence Health Systems’ Digital Innovation Group, and that’s where I led the team that built the Circle mobile app for pregnant women and new moms.
The thinking behind the Circle app was there was a lot of information out there for pregnant women and new moms, but these women were really searching for a voice they could trust. Regular engagement with those women would build that trust, and when they needed to see a doctor, they’d come to us because they knew us already.
The app gave them information about how their baby was developing, what checkups they needed, what medication they should be taking, all the thousand-and-one details women have to keep straight. I was a new mom with two littles, so I could really understand the questions these women had, the concerns they had. I used trackers too — diapers, sleeping patterns, vaccines — but they were all on these separate apps, and I was too exhausted to make sense of them all. So when it came time to create an app, we brought them all together.
And that was another important lesson I brought with me to Gennev: you can build trust through technology, but only if your tech is built with the consumer’s experience in the forefront. You can build all the cool features you want, you can make it look beautiful, but if it doesn’t tell me that my belly is jumping because my baby has hiccups, it’s not useful to me.
Women make 80 percent of the health care decisions for their household. Men frequently are the ones who design that health care. It took Apple – in many ways the gold standard for UX/UI — until iOS 9 to add period tracking to their HealthKit app. For women, it just wasn’t as useful. They had to download other apps or look to other devices to fill that need. It’s not that the male developers did it on purpose or didn’t think it was important, they just hadn’t seen their users as female.
When you foreground your user, you see things others don’t. When you reflect the user’s experience back at them, accurately and faithfully, that builds trust.
Ultimately Circle was acquired by Wildflower Health, where I got exposure to progressive, innovative thought around women’s healthcare. Through that experience, I learned how underserved women were beyond just the child-bearing years – particularly in menopause.
I met Jill, and my next step was set. Her passion for truly serving this underserved community of women who are often really struggling with symptoms, was impossible to resist. And knowing I could be in that boat one day made it even more compelling. Jill has built an amazing team of experts, and I was really excited to build them a first-class platform to take them to the next level.
My mission is to reduce barriers to usability, both for consumers using an app and for researchers using the data from that app to create better solutions and outcomes.
That is especially important in this work for Gennev. Women 40+ have been ignored and dismissed for so long, the last thing they need when they finally find a resource to help them is more hurdles. My north star is to keep it simple. I don’t mean “dumb it down” – those things are often confused in this business, I think. I mean keep it simple. Light the path.
To do that, I recruited a team with a broad range of skills and perspectives.
Software development can no longer be done by a single coder: finding a designer that gets your end-user (in our case, the designer is a woman who went through menopause at an early age) is paramount. And finding a QA Engineer that gets how female consumers use technology is crazy important; finding the right men who don’t flinch at talk of hot flashes is rare, but we won the lottery on talent!
And in COVID times, finding the right talent who can work effectively from home, connected through tools like Slack and Zoom, has been paramount to delivering the new Gennev. My team has chemistry and a diverse set of backgrounds, which has been a huge asset in delivering our new platform.
The COVID crisis really sped up a lot of things that we were already doing. Healthcare has to come to the consumer. We were already working towards that with our telemedicine, but we were up against the barrier of people not really understanding how they could get adequate care via a video in their living room.
COVID sped that up by years, probably. Suddenly you didn’t have a choice, so you tried it. And lots of people found they could get what they need just fine.
We’ve effectively built a new kind of EMR for GenX women who want access to their data, appointment follow-ups, and recommendations. Our team of 25 OB/GYNs and 3 Registered Dietitians need a flexible way for personalizing care options – prescriptions, over-the-counter supplements, education, and community resources for their patients. The new Gennev accomplishes both. And it does so across 49 states for telehealth and all 50 states for our HealthFix Coaching Membership.
One thing I’ve learned from the incubation lab at Providence Healthcare and now Gennev is “learn scrappy.” Find a way to do the tech-enabled thing you want to do in a small, non-technical, scrappy way so you can test it.
At Gennev, we’re building the first-ever intelligent menopause roadmap that recommends care options for women based on where they are in the journey. To do that, we need to have quality data and use it in such a way that the tech is getting more intelligent about forecasting and recommending what a woman needs before she knows it. And we have to be transparent with her about how we’re using her data to her benefit.
To get there, we’re applying quick experiments in non-tech-heavy ways using SMS, email and good ol’ fashion customer service. We’re learning, and every bit of that learning has gone into the new Gennev.
Are we providing our customers and patients with information they can understand and act on?
One of the things I love most about Gennev is we walk the walk. When we say we’re here to help women, we mean it, and that starts with our technology. We want a system that allows women to tell us what they need.
Last week, we received this feedback from a HealthFix Coaching Member:
Customer feedback is a constant reminder of how important it is to be focused on them and what improves their quality of life. It sets the direction for our technology roadmap, and it is a guiding light (and affirmation) for business success.
Gennev has built the largest data set about women in menopause of any company in the world. We’re out to change women’s experience with menopause, to make it something to celebrate rather than dread. Technology powers this change. It’s not the hero, but with the new Gennev, we’re advancing how millions of women manage their menopause.