UK femtech Daye launches virtual clinic for period pain

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UK femtech Daye has a new string to its bow: It’s opened what it’s billing as the world’s first virtual period pain clinic.

The new service, which extends the startup’s direct-to-consumer business selling female health products — such as its signature CBD-infused cramp-fighting tampon — is intended to support women to get a faster diagnosis of what’s causing their period pain, per founder Valentina Milanova.

Femtech startups typically share a mission to plug the gender care gap by designing and building products and services that cater to women’s needs — oftentimes picking up the slack left by traditional healthcare services which have a history of dismissing (or at least under-interrogating) issues affecting the non-male population, regardless of how much pain or how many women are suffering.

In the case of period paid it’s a problem some studies suggest affects up to nine in ten women — hence Daye spotting an opportunity to further extend the support it sells.

In addition to the misery of recurring pain, conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, and others associated with chronic pelvic pain can have period pain as a symptom — some of which may also affect a woman’s fertility. So there are plenty of reasons for people with periods to want to get to the root of what’s causing their painful menstrual bleeding. And Daye touts faster diagnosis of linked conditions as one of its aims for the service.

Daye’s clinic is the latest in a string of on-demand private telehealth services springing up in the UK (and elsewhere) to offer a faster/more convenient response to issues vs the free-at-the-point of use National Health Service (NHS) which continues to struggle to meet demand on a heavily stretched public budget. So while UK citizens can always go to their GP free of charge to ask for help with period pain they may not easily get the kind of specialist attention that’s most likely to get to the root of their issue.

Daye’s period pain clinic proves customers with either a partial or full personalized period pain management report, depending on how much they pay. They are also able to discuss the results of their report with either a nurse or a pelvic pain specialist, again depending on which of the products they buy.

To scale individual assessments, Daye is using a proprietary (non-learning) algorithm — which it says is “based on national guidelines and medical research for the diagnosis and management of pelvic pain conditions” — that draws on users’ responses to a period pain questionnaire Daye sends them in order to generate their “personalized” pain management report.

“We use a proprietary non-learning algorithm, which has been reviewed by and validated by clinicians,” Milanova tells TechCrunch. “The algorithm has also been tested with real-world people with confirmed diagnoses of pelvic pain conditions. The algorithm is trained on existing clinical guidelines and aims to replicate the experience a patient would receive by highly trained pelvic pain specialists.”

Daye says this report may recommend pharmaceutical (i.e. drugs) and non-pharmaceutical (“holistic”) treatments (such as acupuncture or pelvic floor trainers), with the stated goal of “maximizing pain relief and patient wellbeing”.

It’s worth noting that Daye’s advice actively discourages quotidian use of traditional painkillers to control period pain — given the risk of women ending up taking high doses of over-the-counter medications which it suggests can have chronic consequences on gut, kidney and liver health. So the pain management reports customers are paying for focus on changes they can make to reduce “negative side effects of over-the-counter painkillers”.

Of course Daye does also sell its own alternative to popping painkillers (the aforementioned CBD tampons), so there is some potential (very direct) conflict of interest in selling a service which may recommend using its own products and discourage traditional pharmaceuticals. But on this Milanova claims its pain management recommendations are “based on clinical guidelines” — and “do not favour our own products over other interventions”.

She also stipulates it tackles any conflict of interest by delegating prescription of specific pain relief measures to a separate entity, such as a pharmacy partner or doctor — who views an individual’s request and decides if CBD tampons would be suitable for them based on their medical history. 

Pricing

The online clinic, which is only available to UK users for now, has tiered pricing — starting at £24.99 for what’s called the “standard” service. This provides the user with a “snapshot” of the personalized report and “primary insights” (but no consultation). (Per Milanova, this includes an assessment of their current painkiller intake, with a focus on safety. The customer also gets a preview of other sections in the full report, such as lifestyle advice and management of other symptoms. But it looks largely intended to encourage upgrading to the full report.)

The remaining pricing tiers are as follows: An “advanced” version of the service includes the customer’s full report and a 30 minute consultation with a nurse to discuss the results — at a cost of £54.99. While a “premium” version of the service, priced at £199.99, buys the customer a half hour consultation with a pelvic pain specialist to talk through the report.

“Daye’s nurses are experts in sexual health and contraception with more than 15 years of experience in supporting patients with gynaecological concerns,” says Milanova, fleshing out the value proposition it’s seeking to sell women on. “They can offer a comprehensive consultation to help patients make educated choices on birth control, which is one of the main treatments for painful periods, but which can also come with significant side effects, if not selected carefully.

“The nurses can also offer more detailed information about different pain-relief methods, including safe painkiller intake, acupuncture, massage, etc. Lastly, they can help create a clear roadmap for patients on strategies for addressing their symptoms and getting a diagnosis. Providing nurse consultations allows us to speed up the time to treatment, while keeping the cost for patients low.”

The clinic’s pelvic pain specialists are OB-GYN doctors — who she says bring “a wealth of experience in diagnosing pelvic pain conditions and supporting patients through their fertility journey”.

“Many pelvic pain conditions can also inhibit the ability to conceive naturally or carry a full-term pregnancy, which is why we partnered with reproductive health specialists who can offer support and guidance to those struggling to get pregnant,” she adds. 

Daye did not specify how many nurses and doctors are staffing the clinic at this stage. It’s also not employing all experts it’s working with, with Milanova noting it has “a very small full-time team” alongside a number of “trusted external partners” it can refer customer on to — including pelvic pain experts, fertility doctors, physiotherapists and nutritionists, who she says are acting as external consultants and offering consultations booked through Daye

“We will increase the availability of clinical professionals as we scale and more people access our service,” she added. 

Virtual vs physical

One question to mull is whether a virtual clinic can really get to the root of something as potentially tricky to pin down in cause as period pain without the customer being able to undergo physical tests or even be examined in person to confirm a diagnosis since they are sitting at home on their Internet connection, not in a doctor’s office.

However Milanova suggests that the diagnosis of chronic gynaecological health conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS is “evolving towards a symptom of believing patient symptoms vs using more invasive diagnostic protocols like keyhole surgeries”. 

“Our clinic incorporates a clinically-validated questionnaire and symptom matcher that adhere to the guidelines of gynaecological health regulators and organisations such as NICE, ACOG, and RCOG,” she also specifies. “This ensures that conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, and other chronic pelvic pain disease are accurately assessed.

“To ensure accuracy and effectiveness, our assessment tool was developed collaboratively with NHS GPs and UK-based chronic pelvic pain specialists. Our platform aligns with medical experts and industry best practices. Moreover, our digital assessment tool goes beyond considering symptoms and medical history alone. It takes into account a wide range of lifestyle risk factors that may contribute to period pain. By considering these additional factors, we aim to provide a more holistic evaluation that considers the unique circumstances of each individual.”

It’s also important to emphasize Daye’s algorithm does not automate diagnosis. Rather it’s a data processing tool that aims to speed up diagnosis in conjunction with connecting customers to vetted (human) experts in gynaecological conditions who are qualified to join the dots of symptoms and make a call on what might be going on. 

“Upon completion of the questionnaire, patients receive a report that includes probability scores for common conditions associated with period pain,” she explains. “It’s important to note that these scores are calculated solely based on symptoms and medical history and should not be considered a final diagnosis by themselves. A key part of our value proposition lies in connecting our patients with vetted pelvic pain specialists who can confirm the diagnosis and provide further medical advice,.”

Daye intends to further extend the range of human experts it’s able to connect customers to — with an eye on other “largely unmanaged symptoms” women may suffer such as hair loss, obesity, and severe acne. So the plan looks to be to built out a wider telehealth platform focused on women’s issues, and continue growing its community of users.

“Daye’s service offers follow-on consultations with vetted specialists such as sexual health nurses, pelvic pain specialists, fertility specialists, nutritionists, and lifestyle coaches,” she notes, addng: “As our platform expands, we aim to include additional specialists like physiotherapists and dermatologists.”

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