‘Proactive for her’: A digital platform that wants to revamp Indian woman’s access to healthcare

“Does anyone know of a non-judgemental gynaecologist, who will help deal with mental health issues because of PCOS, and won’t just offer the pill?” That’s a friend’s recent Instagram story. In India, finding a gynaecologist who is empathetic, non-judgemental and won’t ask if you’re ‘married or not’ — the secret code for sexual activity — can often be a challenge. This also explains why every few weeks, there’s a Google doc floating on Twitter or some social media platform with a list of ‘trusted’ gynaecologists. And that’s a problem that Achitha Jacob wants to solve with her ‘Proactive for her’ platform.

The Harvard-educated Jacob, who worked in a Fortune 500 healthcare company before this, realised that women in India were not fully addressing their health concerns. “When it comes to women’s health in India, it’s not just a clinical problem that we’re solving, it’s also a cultural problem,” she tells indianexpress.com.

Bangalore-based ‘Proactive for her’ wants to be a “full-stack, digital health platform for women,” where all health services are accessible under one roof, be it skin-related issues caused by PCOS or sexual health problems such as vaginismus, where finding an empathetic doctor is very crucial.

“We have four business verticals. We do consultations which we call clinics. We do blood tests or diagnostics, as well as mid-to-long-term programmes where women interact with a team of doctors for a specific health goal. And finally, we also do health coaching, which is a more one-on-one value proposition,” she explained.

She makes it clear that their goal is not to be just another health aggregator where women are just trying to find a doctor. It is rather to take a holistic approach to women’s health online. The difference, she believes, lies with the company’s “healthcare protocols, processes, and team”.

proactive for her, pr handout Achitha Jacob, CEO and Founder, Proactive for her. (Source: PR handout)

“There are a lot of websites and aggregators today for doctors. But these companies don’t take full responsibility for your clinical outcomes. All of our clinicians are in-house, and on the company payroll, which essentially means we guarantee the customer journey, and the clinical experience when you come to Proactive,” she highlighted.

The difference is that if a patient has a bad experience with a gynaecologist on Proactive, the platform takes responsibility. The company also has in place a set of internal processes which they expect their internal healthcare team to follow with patients.

She also admits that while they are going after “internet-savvy women” in the beginning, they do hope to target more women in the future, especially those not in Metros or Tier I cities. “We did this for Nestle at one of their factories, where we conducted a programme for their blue-collar factory workers. But this was like one of our first few large-scale attempts to go beyond digitally native women,” she explained.

Regarding the doctors who work at ‘Proactive for her’, the company has slightly different agreements with each one. While the doctors also continue their own private practice, they are not affiliated with any other corporate brands or corporate hospitals.

But given that this aims to be a full-stack solution, Proactive has also tied up with multiple accredited labs across the country to ensure that patients can get their testing done post consultation.

“There’s a lot of standardised packages that you see online. But oftentimes, these are not really customised to a patient’s clinical history and healthcare priorities. So for our diagnostic product, all of our patients who choose to get tested via Proactive, get a free consultation with our pathologists’ team as well,” Jacob said.

The company then also gives a special smart report, which makes it easier for patients to understand the test results. According to Jacob, the aim is to fully empower the consumer to understand their clinical information. The company has tied up with a technology vendor to generate the smart reports, which are finally signed off by the pathologists at the company.

‘Proactive for her’ in total has 10 clinicians on board and has a twin strategy of direct-to-consumers and reaching out to corporations. It also offers memberships to clients, which gives them a minimum of 10% discount.

“The membership for most of our repeat users is a great value proposition. It also lets you avail health coaching sessions for the rest of the year. Our memberships program is also incredibly popular with our b2b clients,” Jacob claimed.

The ‘clinics’ look at the issue of sexual health, which remains a taboo topic in India, menstrual health, PCOS and skin and hair care. As Jacob says the idea is to reach out to women’s issues beyond just pregnancy and fertility, which often tends to be an area where most gynaecologists end up focusing in India.

Even with PCOS, women are either told to go straight on to the pill or a drug if there is insulin resistance. Or worse, there is fat-shaming and they are told to just lose weight and exercise more. Jacob is hoping to shake that rigid approach. “In a majority of doctor-patient interactions, the patient’s own medical goals and lifestyle preferences are rarely taken into account. The patient has to be in the driver’s seat with respect to their treatment choices,” she said.

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