SimpliFed is a company on a mission to democratize access to baby feeding support services
Steven Loeb speaks with Andrea Ippolito, CEO and founder of SimpliFed, a company on a mission to democratize access to baby feeding support services.
Our goal is to understand tech breakthroughs radically changing healthcare: the way we screen, diagnose and treat conditions and measure outcomes. And whether tech is helping or hurting our well-being physically and mentally.
Highlights from the interview:
- When Ippolito had her first daughter, despite understanding healthcare, she said she never felt so broken and stigmatized. She didn't know what she was doing, and it was just so incredibly difficult feeding her first daughter, but she learned that she wasn't alone: 85% of women start off breastfeeding, but only 25% reach the medical recommendations of fully breastfeeding for six months. She also learned that there's a lot of reasons for that, including lack of paid parental, not wanting to breastfeed, or having to transition back to work. 60% wanted to breastfeed for longer and they cited lack of access to support for the reason why they didn’t.
- Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans and commercial Medicaid plans are required to cover breastfeeding support at no cost to families. So, someone should to be paying for the services that people want, that they're actively reaching for, but didn't get. That's really what motivated Ippolito to found SimpliFed, to really redesign the care pathway surrounding feeding your baby, getting health plans to cover baby feeding, and breastfeeding support services at no cost to families, as they should under federal law, while doing so inclusively. Whether someone's breastfeeding, formula feeding, pumping, no matter how they feed their baby, they should get access to support so it's a very approachable frictionless system to receive services from.
- A lot of people ask where Ippolito looks for new opportunities in healthcare and she always tells them to look to the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which have been shown, time and time again, to the leaders in healthcare medicine. The VA was the first nationwide Electronic Health Record system, is a national leader in prosthetics, and VA team members invented the pacemaker. The VA has done pioneering work surrounding mental healthcare and suicide prevention and precision medicine, including a program called the Million Veterans Project where they are on a quest to get tissue from a million veterans to in order to develop more precision medicine to treat cancer and precision oncology. The VA sat on the forefront of using food to better treat diabetes and kidney care. The VA and Military Health System have also been doing telehealth long before the private sector.
- SimpliFed thinks about baby feeding and breastfeeding support as being a lot like mental healthcare and physical therapy, where we don't just have one appointment and you're good, but you need access to ongoing support as your needs and pains and issues evolve. The questions you have about baby feeding in the first week are very different from the week three, four, five, or six. When you transition back to work, your questions are changed, or when you are weaning from breastfeeding. So, Ippolito thinks it's really important with baby feeding support to be longitudinal and that requires ongoing support to appointments.
- When you're working with health plans, you have to understand what goals they need to meet for their respective organization, and health plans much care about health outcomes, abput reducing costs, and they also care about complying with federal law. When you're working with health plans, it's really important to listen to their strategic goals and what's important to them, but also meet them where they're at. The good news about the services SimpliFed provides is that they are required under federal law, and no one has enforced it until recently, and so now that enforcement is coming that definitely lights a fire under health plans to comply.
- When a woman doesn't reach her breastfeeding expectations, she's much more likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression. And so, baby feeding is very tied to a mother's mental health. That's one of the reasons why the company does postpartum depression screening as part of its care pathway. The hope is that, because it has this longitudinal relationship with parents, it can help identify folks that are rising or presenting as posed with postpartum depression as part of our care pathway so that we can then refer them to the appropriate mental healthcare services.
- The pandemic really accelerated the virtual model because it showed folks that there's a place for this. If you look at the data, it shows that patients have, for a while, really liked telehealth; the people that weren't adopting it were the providers. So, what the pandemic did actually is encourage or accelerate the adoption of telehealth for providers, and no doubt that helped SimpliFed recruit providers to our platform as well. So, the pandemic further validated our approach, but really accelerated the adoption on both the patient and provider sides.
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