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The company offers pelvic floor training, lactation counseling, and C-section recovery resources
Throughout their pregnancy, expectant mothers get more and more regular care as their baby gets closer to being born. Once that happens, though, that almost immediately stops. Yet, there are a whole series of potential problems and questions that come up in that postpartum period, as well as specialists they might need to see.
Enter Ruth Health, a telehealth platform for pregnant postpartum women. The company, which provides virtual access to specialists for pelvic training and recovery, C-section recovery, and lactation support, announced a $2.4 million seed funding round on Thursday.
"Women's health has, for so long, been built by men, been outdated, and been full of gaps in care. We started Ruth Health to fill those gaps in care to create an affordable, accessible destination. Not only a telehealth clinic, but also a care hub," said Alison Greenberg, the company's co-Founder and CEO.
"We're really passionate about providing our specific services to perinatal folks, so pregnant and postpartum people, but also arming them with information and know-how to combat myths and providing evidence-based information and recommendations around the maze of questions that is pregnancy."
Expanding access to postpartum care
While state supported, and free, perinatal care is standard in other countries around the world, like France and Saudi Arabia, that is not the case in the US. Lactation consultants, for example, are often available in the hospital, and the patient of typically going to see one 12 to 24 hours after birth, but after that they have to find one on their own, which can be costly, not to mention the time involved in getting to and from an office, all of which can be a lot for a person taking care of a newborn baby.
There's also a lack of specialists available, which cause major wait times for those who even have access to a specialist at all; there are only roughly 5,000 pelvic floor physical therapists in the entire US, which means it can take up to six months to get an appointment. And once they do get one, it typically takes three hours door to door, and can cost $150 to $300 per session.
What Ruth is doing is filling in those gaps, and making it easier, and less expensive, to see one of those specialists: its users wait a maximum of one week and pay $75 per session. The company also has a self scheduling system, so users don't have to call or wait on hold, and then, once they book an appointment, Ruth will put it directly onto their calendar.
"When issues come up, it's usually not when you're in the hospital and things are brand new. It’s over time, it's as you see challenges. On a lactation side it can be with supply, with latch, pain during breastfeeding, questions about supplementing with bottles, issues using a breast pump. Those are all the things that we can offer guidance on much more quickly than trying to book a session with somebody in person," said Greenberg.
"By using telehealth, we can get more sessions per day out of one of our specialists than you would normally have with an in-person provider. And it's incredibly valuable to folks who live in rural America, or who live in smaller cities where there's just fewer providers."
Currently, the number of patients on the platform numbers in the hundreds, and while there is ROI for them in the form of better health outcomes (the company has had patients who experience an improvement in conditions like painful sex or incontinence in just three to four sessions), the bigger ROI, according to Greenberg, is in the time they get back by using a telehealth solution.
"They have a certified provider who's providing them with answers, and it helps them avoid the hours in the day of trying to figure it out themselves, and the time spent trying to visit an in-person provider. So, that's been a noticeable ROI for some of our patients who've seen a lactation consultant or a physical therapist in person and love that they can do what we do from the comfort of their own home," she said.
Even more important, though, is the the ROI in terms of eliminating what she calls "the pregnancy tax," which is "a tax paid by every birthing person in time, money, and career, just to give birth, just to have brought life into this world."
A study from the National Business Group on Health, found that the average postpartum retention of an employee was about 59% in the US. When give access to lactation support alone, the employee retention at a company went up to 94%.
"It really goes to show that for women who want to go back to work and who prioritize their career, taking care of their postpartum body can help them be more present at work and can help them really show up as their full self," Greenberg said.
Ruth is offered as an employee benefit to employers across New York, California, and Idaho.
The new funding round was led by Giant Ventures, with participation from Citylight VC, Cleo Capital Scout Fund, Crista Galli Ventures, Duro VC, Emmeline Ventures, Gaingels, Global Founders Capital, Pentas Ventures, SOMA Capital, Techstars, Torch Capital, YCombinator, and various strategic angels.
The company plans to use the money to expand its team; there are four providers currently on the platform, and the plan is to hire bilingual lactation support providers and new pelvic therapists.
On top of that, it also plans to expand its payment models; as it stand, patients on Ruth Health have to either pay out of pocket for their appointments, or they can pay through their HSA or FSA. Going forward, the company hopes to soon be able to accept insurance as well.
"Accepting insurance is a really critical part of our roadmap. It's something we hope to be able to do in the next year but it is a challenge. Accepting insurance can come with delays, it can come with limitations of care because of the lack of a diagnosis or referral," Greenberg explained.
"What we are trying to do is just make our care as accessible as possible, and by bringing down our prices this year, we see that we can actually be there for folks who otherwise might not have considered something off insurance."
Telehealth and femtech
Ruth is riding the wave of two major trends in the healthcare space, the first being the rapid acceptance of telehealth services during the pandemic, which has made patients much more amenable to a solution like Ruth, something that Greenberg says "would have been unthinkable three years ago."
The other trend is the rise of femtech, which reached over $1 billion in investments for the first time in 2021. Greenberg also attributes this to COVID, noting that, "awareness of women's health issues increased" over the last two years.
"We've seen new excitement around women's health, provision of care around women's health innovations. I think and I hope that gone are the days of looking at women's health as a niche, we’re 51% of the population. And, finally, investors are waking up to that fact," she said.
Ruth Health wants to take both of those trends and use them to lower the maternal morbidity and mortality rates in America, which is the worst in the developed world.
"Our goal is really to continue to fill gaps in care, to continue to not just work direct to consumers and with our patients, but to partner with larger institutions to scale this care. And it's to really reframe women's health as a collaborative experience, where women's voices are a key part of their care regimen, a key part of their pregnancy, and get heard."
(Image source: ruthhealth.com)
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