Herself Health: Targeting the Health Needs of Women 65+
Herself Health recently raised a $26 million Series A funding round led by investor Michael Cline of Accretive with participation from Juxtapose. The funding brings Herself Health’s total funding to $33M according to Crunchbase. Herself Health is a startup that offers primary care for women aged 65 and older. The funds will be used for clinic expansion, virtual care expansion, increased in-person care and community engagement offerings, and to attract and retain new talent.
Key Takeaways: (Complete Last)
When there is no clear explanation for certain symptoms in women over 50 years, menopause is frequently used as an overruling container diagnosis (NCBI).
As women age, they are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and are more likely than men to experience strokes that are associated with worse outcomes (CDC)
Over one-quarter of women ages 65 to 74 and over half of women ages 85 and older live alone (Commonwealth Fund)
Only 20 percent of ob/gyn residencies offer training on menopause, and 80 percent of medical residents report feeling "barely comfortable" discussing or treating menopause (Commonwealth Fund)
Herself Health was founded in 2022 by CEO Kristen Helton, the former head of Amazon’s Amazon Care healthcare subsidiary, together with investment firm Juxtapose. While their initial goal was to find a way to assist older adults, after conducting surveys of more than 700 women aged 65 and over Helton and Juxtapose made some surprising findings. For example, they found that women of this age were almost a third more likely to be misdiagnosed than men, nearly half as likely to get a proper diagnosis of heart disease and almost a third as likely to be misdiagnosed after a stroke. In addition, the data indicated that women of this age were more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis and be misdiagnosed when it comes to other conditions.
Based on those findings, Helton decided to focus on creating services to help older women with their specific health goals by understanding their ambitions, needs, and challenges. In her words, "women 65+ face unique health and social challenges as they age, and for far too long, their concerns, needs, and desires have been ignored. That's why we are designing Herself Health to be the value-based solution to improve outcomes and help women find joy, purpose, and better quality of life. Our fundamental goal is to elevate the patient experience and provide meaningful in-person and virtual support that provides women 65+ with a primary care experience designed specifically for them." She emphasized that the company’s goal is to attempt to address the unique social and medical challenges women face as they age.
Herself Health attempts to distinguish itself by prioritizing the holistic aspects of health and well-being, including mental health, mobility, social, and behavioral health. The company plans to target health concerns that are more prevalent in older women, such as Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, thyroid health, and weight management. As noted in Fierce Health, Herself Health uses health coaches to help connect a patient to her care team. As they point out, “this allows for patient education, follow-ups and assessing gaps in care”. They also coordinate with any specialists their clients currently see and who are accepted by their insurance. During the visitation, clients will discuss their personalized goals, have an exam, and find the proper health methods with trained clinicians.
According to the company, Herself Health connects life goals with health goals to help its patients get more life out of life. The company highlights focused care, genuine relationships, a whole-person approach, and unique goals for each patient. According to the company, they "offer everything she'd expect from her primary care practice, with a special focus on conditions that commonly affect women 65+" and are on a mission to create change. In addition, clients have the option to set up an individual patient portal with the ability to send a message to their care team throughout the entire day and can schedule any necessary follow-up appointments with doctors or specialists.
The Big Picture:
Significant gaps and structural barriers inhibit the current primary healthcare system from meeting the needs of older women. Women must receive and have access to comprehensive, high-quality primary health care that is tailored to their needs at all ages and stages of life. This includes receiving sex-specific, sex-aware, and gender-sensitive care. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the United States primary health care system does not effectively meet women's needs as they age and transition through stages of life. For example, it was reported that "Health status indicators show that women in the U.S. have worse outcomes than women in other high-income countries. For example, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is higher than the rate in any other high-income country and continues to rise"
Furthermore, the effects of the gap in quality healthcare in aging women are amplified in women of color, such as in the African American community. Moreover, various diagnoses in women are reported to be undermined, and it is reported to take several years to establish a comparable diagnosis in women than men A recent peer-reviewed article stated that "frequently used undetermined diagnoses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and psychosocial distress are typically more often present in women. In addition, as it often happens in clinical practice when there is no clear explanation for certain symptoms in women over 50 years, menopause is frequently used as an overruling container diagnosis." According to the Commonwealth Fund, this is further complicated by the fact that "only 20 percent of ob/gyn residencies offer training on menopause, and 80 percent of medical residents report feeling "barely comfortable" discussing or treating menopause". When combined with the fact that "over one-quarter of women ages 65 to 74 and over half of the women ages 85 and older live alone" this not only contributes to their lack of health and overall well-being but results in more women experiencing more unhealthy years of aging than men.