When it comes to the healthcare landscape, Katherine Ryder doesn’t mince words: “The burden of the US health care system falls disproportionately on women’s shoulders.” As the founder and CEO of the female-focused digital health clinic Maven, which offers on-demand medical care from a network of specialty providers, Ryder uses adjectives like “inconvenient,” “fraught” and “broken” to describe what she sees as serious gaps in women’s care. And she’s clearly not the only one who’s frustrated: In just over two years, the platform has served tens of thousands of patients, who have clicked on the app for everything from birth control prescriptions to breastfeeding help.
For Ryder, working on digital healthcare investments for a venture capital firm and seeing several of her friends get pregnant for the first time helped plant the seeds of Maven. Now a mom herself (son Theo was born last summer), Ryder has an almost laser-like focus on improving maternal care. “For too long, maternity has been defined as a nine-month health experience that stops the second you have a baby,” she says. “That couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s particularly hard on women who have to return to work in as little as six weeks.”
To that end, the New York company, which works with more than 700 medical professionals, launched its Maven Maternity program for businesses. Employers that sign on are able to provide a Maven-designed 15-month program that supports pregnant employees and new parents. “We cover everything from helping women transition back to work in a healthy, productive way to helping employers reduce maternity-related costs, which is often the No. 1 or 2 health care cost for companies,” Ryder says, adding that, oddly, there hadn’t been any innovation in this area until Maven entered the scene.
“Most people don’t know this, but women in America make 80 percent of all health decisions for themselves and their families. This fact is all too obvious for any mother who has ever had to miss work to get care for her child or any woman who has worried all night because she can’t get a simple answer from her doctor. We started Maven to address these needs and to make it easier for women to get immediate professional care from someone they trust.”
“I’m really proud of what we do with mental health. Women’s mental health is so different from men’s mental health, particularly when it comes to maternal health. If you have a miscarriage, that is just as much a mental health issue as a physical health issue, and there’s no support. Why has postpartum depression gone undiagnosed for so long and untreated? One of the biggest issues with things like that is you can’t just go to a regular therapist and expect them to know how to deal with it, but all our providers specialize in maternal mental health and women’s issues.”
“Meeting so many health care providers who are incredibly committed to women’s and family health has been inspiring but also humbling. We really want to do well by our practitioners and help give them the opportunity to change a broken system. The challenge is working in an industry that is fraught with regulation and red tape. That being said, I’m optimistic that we’re coming onto the scene at the right time with Maven.”