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5 Questions with Maven CEO Katherine Ryder

In the United States, women make approximately 80% of all healthcare decisions. Women are typically more engaged in their own health than men, make choices for their partners, and guide the welfare of older relatives and children. However, women’s voices are often lost in the national discussion around healthcare.

This disparity inspired Katherine Ryder, former journalist and a VC investor, to launch Maven, a “digital clinic” that connects women to vetted healthcare practitioners. How it works: the Maven app offers pay-as-you-go healthcare for less than the cost of an insurance co-payment. Video chat or message with the largest network of women’s and family health specialists—from OB-GYNs to pediatricians, therapists to nutritionists—for instant peace of mind (and prescriptions).

Busy women can use the technology to talk to providers via video or chat, get prescriptions filled and float health questions to a practitioner-moderated forum. The care Maven offers has a holistic basis—experts from mental health to fertility to nutrition are available, offering a balance between the valued relationships of traditional healthcare and the modern need for on-demand service.

Named one of Fast Company’Most Innovative Companies of 2018, the brand is also looking at a woman’s health journey and offering support along the way, whether you’re in college (Maven Campus) or returning to the workforce after giving birth (Maven Maternity).

With more than 700 providers across the U.S. and counting, Maven is quickly on its way to solidifying its brand promise to get women the care they need by being a clinic, community, and confidant at their fingertips.

I got to connect with Katherine at the inaugural HLTH Conference in Las Vegas to learn more about the brand and her goals for growth. She speaks on May 8 at 9:20am PST on the panel “Personalized Approaches to Particular Care Needs.”

Katherine, you explore a major contradiction in healthcare in a recent LinkedIn article, noting that while women are the biggest “purchasers” of healthcare in America, women’s health is often still marginalized. How did we get here? And what needs to change in the current healthcare ecosystem to shift the power dynamics?

How we got here, in short, is that women haven’t traditionally guided decision-making within the healthcare industry. Despite the fact that both the healthcare consumer and healthcare providers are overwhelmingly female, the C-suites of the major companies in the industry are mostly male. And while at least some of these leaders have tried to innovate for women, it’s hard to do that effectively without a personal understanding of how the system feels for a female patient, what gaps exist, and where addressing them is most urgent.

Many people might be surprised to learn that the U.S.’s maternal mortality rate has been steadily on the rise since 2000 (while declining in the U.K., Portugal, Australia, Canada, France and elsewhere). To what do you attribute this failure? Do brands, particularly healthcare brands, have a responsibility to act on these issues?

First, I should say that a lot of excellent and independent research has been done on this question. My answer here comes more from reading and understanding the good work of the best researchers, versus direct observations via Maven—as I don’t think the scope of our business is broad enough to give a full perspective on this question.

With all that said, I think there are two main factors contributing to this problem: First, there are structural problems within U.S. healthcare economics that, at least sometimes, steer medical decision-making in ways that aren’t always in the best interest of the patient. One very visible outcome of this is our high national C-section rate, which is almost 20 percentage points higher than what the WHO recommends—and which is by far the highest for any advanced economy.

Second, and probably more importantly, there are major gaps between the healthcare experience of rich and poor women in the United States. There is a divide in access to care, period; there is a divide in access to top providers; and there is a divide in health education that includes medical education but also extends beyond it—touching everything from nutritional education to birth planning to learning how to advocate for yourself in a broken system.

When you think about the Maven brand, what needs to happen to reach your next level of growth goals? What does success in the next five years look like?

For Maven specifically, success in five years means fixing the problem you outlined earlier—i.e., enabling women everywhere to get the information they need, affordably, to help them make good healthcare decisions for themselves and for their families.

From an employer perspective, I think we’re at an inflection point where the majority of self-insured employers are thoughtfully grappling with different approaches toward fertility, maternity, and return-to-work care—both from a cost perspective and from an employee satisfaction and retention perspective. Over the past five years, benefits programs at the vanguard have been making some really aggressive moves on maternity—but I think the next five years will see this go much more mainstream as we get beyond early-adopters and average companies start to see the negative competitive impact decades-old maternity policies are having on their business.

Secondly, from a consumer standpoint, while digital medicine is rapidly becoming mainstream among certain parts of the U.S. population, it still isn’t for the vast majority of Americans. This is changing and will continue to change—particularly as employers and insurers more proactively force it to change, given the impact ER visits, for instance, have on their bottom-line—but I think that evolution is necessary and foundational to our goals.

Maven is feeding women to a select group of practitioners who are an essential part of the brand experience a patient has. What’s the vetting process for your HCPs?

I can only go into so much detail as the way we vet practitioners is a major aspect of our “secret sauce” as a company. That said, I will say that we test really rigorously both for medical/clinical expertise as well as for “bedside” manner—as we know how important it is not just to have a provider who knows what they are talking about, but also is a good listener, is truly caring, and has a lot of patience. It’s a cliche, but we see that all too often the “care” is missing in the healthcare experience—and we’re trying to do something about that. We only accept 35% of the practitioners who apply to Maven.

You’re on a panel here at HLTH entitled, “Personalized Approaches to Particular Care Needs.” Most consumers, and perhaps HCPs as well, would agree that personalized approaches to medicine and care are ideal, but this ambition can’t be without its challenges. What are some of the hurdles that brands like Maven and your peers’ organizations face in the market?

A major hurdle is data. I recently had a baby and the Labor & Delivery floor of the hospital wasn’t able to share its data with the postpartum floor—so when I was moved to postpartum, the nurses there literally knew nothing about me other than that I had just had a child. This may sound extreme but, shockingly, it’s quite a pervasive dynamic. And in a world of highly-specialized providers, how can you possibly have a “personalized” experience if you cannot move patient records seamlessly from one provider to the next within one hospital? This is a systemic problem and is something Maven is very excited to be tackling directly within our own network.

This interview originally appeared on brandchannel.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth