Education, Health, and Safety

HerMD Helps Women Take Control Of Their Sexual Health—And It’s Funded By Men

“I don’t want them to be invisible anymore.”

Dr. Somi Javaid is talking about women. Female patients. As a college student, she witnessed her mother’s potentially fatal heart condition be dismissed as stress. As a gynecologist she heard numerous stories from frustrated patients who felt uncomfortable sharing personal details with their doctors and whose complaints went unheard. She believed women needed a safe place where they felt empowered and educated about their choices and even their own anatomy. Since it didn’t exist, she created it.

Dr. Javaid is the founder and chief medical officer of HerMD, a company that operates female-focused centers solely dedicated to women’s sexual health and menopause services. And clearly this female-centric safe space is sorely needed. Women from more than 30 states have traveled to the company’s 2 locations in Ohio and Kentucky.

But women will no longer have to trek cross country – HerMD just secured a Series A funding round for $10 million to build out a telehealth capability and open additional centers in several states. And the best part? HerMD received its funding from men.

Funding Women Empowerment

With less than 2% of venture dollars going to women, Javaid was weary. “I was told the cards were stacked against me,” she says. “I was a female Pakistani from the Midwest with no VC ties and I was older than most going into fundraising.”

Fortunately, some savvy VCs saw HerMD as a real blue ocean opportunity.

“Women have traveled to Cincinnati from 30+ states to visit HerMD to receive care,” says John Harris. “That means either (a) HerMD has developed a care model that is truly unique or (b) what should be routine care for women is not available elsewhere. In this case, we believe it's both,” explains the managing partner of JAZZ Venture Partners, the firm funding HerMD’s growth.

Eliminating Obstacles to Care

Significant hurdles to obtaining quality medical care still exist for women. HerMD is changing that.

There is still a stigma around sexual health. “It’s very difficult for most women to speak to male providers about aging, menopause and sexual health,” says Javaid. She attributes the taboo to the lack of sensitivity training among medical professionals. While organizations like the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) and North American Menopause Society (NAMS) are helping, the majority of physicians aren’t trained to create an environment where women feel comfortable enough to provide the full disclosure necessary to make a proper diagnosis. All providers at HerMD receive sensitivity training to elicit the honest conversations needed to make timely and accurate diagnoses.

Patients and doctors feel rushed. Most medical providers schedule patients for 15-minute appointments. This is often not long enough to explore sensitive topics and devise an effective treatment plan. “We have completely eliminated the 15-minute appointment,” says Javaid. Appointments at HerMD range from 20 minutes to one hour. “At HerMD, the appointments are long enough to do a thorough examination, discuss all my concerns, and determine next steps,” says Libby Bahorik, a HerMD patient who sings the praises of the practice.

And the longer appointments don’t just please the patients, according to Javaid. HerMD providers appreciate the time and the ability to practice medicine the way they intended when they went through their training. “We have fixed the physician/patient relationship,” says Javaid. “They get time with their patients and women tell me ‘they feel heard.’”

Quality medical care is not accessible by all women. Many boutique medical practices are cash only or are offered through a concierge model, making them inaccessible to most American women. Not so at HerMD. The centers, which will soon be spread out across the U.S. to accommodate underserved populations, accept insurance and are committed to offering female patients both a timely diagnosis and treatment plan as well as the most innovative modern treatment options. For example, Javaid says, “We just brought in a brand new device that provides an incision-free way to treat fibroids, which disproportionately affect minority women. We were one of the first to adopt this technology in Ohio.”

Insurance companies don’t cover “experimental” treatments. Many new procedures that come out are labeled “experimental” and are therefore not covered by insurance – which makes them unaffordable to most women. Many of these procedures should not be labeled “experimental” as they have already been cleared by the FDA. “At HerMD, we are performing clinical trials in our office to get that data so we can help move these important procedures from ‘experimental’ to ‘standard of care’,” says Javaid.

“HerMD provides care that is non-judgmental, patient-centered, creative, and cutting edge,” says Bahorik. “And still, what has been most impactful for me… is the safe environment.” And that was exactly what Dr. Javaid intended. “I wanted to create this safe space where women were truly partners in addressing their own sexual healthcare. I want women to feel as comfortable discussing menopause and their sexual health with their doctor as they are discussing an earache.”

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