Today, people live longer than ever before. This is good news for humans, but bad for healthcare systems all around the world - never before has there been such a strain on governments and health professionals to provide optimal service to its patients, because as we get older we also tend to get long-term conditions and need more health and social care. On average, older adults visit physicians’ offices twice as often as people under 65.
World Health Organization estimates that, by 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over, which means that the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion by 2030. Among the countries with the highest percentage of the population over the age of 65, Monaco was on top of the list in 2022 - with 36% of the population, Japan was second with 29% and Italy came third with 24%, according to the research by Statista. These numbers also mean that half of this aging population are women.
Herself Health, a new healthcare technology company designed to deliver advanced primary care to women over 65, announced today its first clinic opening and closing of a $7 million seed round funding round led by founding partner Juxtapose. “As a value-based advanced healthcare business focused exclusively on women, our company aims to link women’s health goals with their life goals, taking into account a patient’s physical, mental, social, sexual, and spiritual needs”, as explained by Kristen Helton, CEO of Herself Health.
At Herself Health’s inaugural clinic, patients will receive care for all of their urgent and everyday care needs, as well as issues unique to women’s health. The company currently accepts Medicare and will soon accept Medicare Advantage patients (64 million people in the U.S. are on Medicare, 35 million of which are women).
“We begin an assessment of our clients and patients by performing a full health history and then creating a plan that helps the patient care for their presenting issues while also targeting common concerns like bone health, weight loss, and emotional well-being.”
Helton shares how, today, women are misdiagnosed at higher rates than men, take longer to diagnose, and often express frustration at not feeling heard. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, having in mind that women’s health has been overlooked in research and underfunded for decades, not only in the U.S. but also in most countries around the world. These issues are compounded by healthcare’s universal shortcomings, including not giving patients enough time with doctors and expecting them to navigate their own care across specialists.
In 2016, the Brain Tumour Charity released a report on the treatment of brain tumor patients in the U.K., and found that “almost one in three of them had visited a doctor more than five times before receiving their diagnosis, with nearly a quarter not being diagnosed for more than a year”. The TODAY and SurveyMonkey 2019 poll found that 52% of women and 36% of men considered discrimination towards patients to be a serious issue, and 17% of women felt they had been treated differently because of their gender. The perception of bias was most acute for women with chronic health conditions - more than a quarter of them said a healthcare provider ignored or dismissed their symptoms.
Helton has spent her career bridging technology to patient care, working across clinical diagnostics and implantable biosensors to telemedicine and connected devices sectors. She previously co-founded the biosensor company, Profusa and founded and led Amazon's first foray into healthcare services, Amazon Care, which was designed to deliver convenient, patient-focused virtual and in-home healthcare, first for Amazon employees and then expanded to serve other employers and their workforces. Under Helton's leadership, Care grew from an idea to virtual care in 50 states and in-home care in 15 cities with over 100,000 patients, so as an experienced industry leader, she has seen first-hand gaps in this space that she’s addressing now through her new venture.
“At Juxtapose, we partner with leaders who have a proven track record and a clear vision for the opportunity ahead. From her work in research and startups to Amazon, Kristen has a strong track record of transforming insights around the customer and patient-led needs into comprehensive healthcare experiences, so we are super excited to partner with her as she works to redesign value-based care for the growing population of aging women,” shares Jed Cairo, Founding Partner at Juxtapose, a lead investor at Herself Health, with me in an email.
“With the launch of Herself Health, we are breaking the mold of one-size-fits-most healthcare, which traditionally falls short of providing the best care for women of this generation,” adds Helton. “We are taking an omnichannel approach, starting with the launch of our first clinic, opening in St. Paul, Minneapolis. Soon, we plan to expand to include virtual care touchpoints and eventually, in-home care,” concludes Helton.
Although the deficiencies in the care of older adults cannot be solved by simply technological innovation or better financing of their care, it’s a good start. As our healthcare needs evolve, so should the offering, and new models of healthcare have to be developed. A healthy population is vital for a strong economy, and, without a doubt, aging generations are a big part of that equation.