Marketing a Telemedicine Women’s Health Platform
Telemedicine is being given a new spin thanks to Dr. Sophia Yen of Pandia Health, which is an online platform that delivers birth control to “any woman with a mailbox and an internet connection.” She joined me on the podcast to discuss marketing a telemedicine platform focused on women’s health.
Dr. Yen graduated MIT and UCSF Medical School. She worked as a Clinical Associate Professor in Adolescent Medicine at Stanford. On the podcast, she shares her passion for making women’s lives better and discusses her role as CEO and Co-founder of Pandia Health – and how she is using telemedicine to improve healthcare for Gen Z and millennial women.
In our chat, we discuss:
- Developing a unique marketing message
- Building trust with Gen Z and Millennial women
- Expanding services and reaching new audiences
Find out how Pandia Health is crossing new frontiers in telemedicine – and how they get creative with content and social media to reach their audience.
This is an episode of the Leading with Health podcast, formerly titled “Healthcare Lead Generation.” In this podcast, healthcare IT disruptors, innovative healthcare providers and health sector company leaders join host Jennifer Michelle to discuss growth strategies and navigating change.
Jennifer Michelle, MPH, EMT is a marketing consultant specializing in the healthcare sector. President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, she has a Master’s in International Health & Epidemiology and currently volunteers as an EMT. Her unique background allows her to bring unexpected insight and depth to every interview.
Marketing a Telemedicine Platform (Podcast Transcript)
Jennifer: 00:04 Hi, everyone! I’m Jennifer with Michelle Marketing Strategies, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads and grow their businesses. Today on Healthcare Lead Generation, we are talking with Dr Sophia Yen, who’s the CEO and Co-founder of Pandia Health. Pandia Health brings birth control to any woman with a mailbox and an Internet connection. You can find them at pandiahealth.com. Dr. Yen graduated MIT and UCSF medical school. She’s worked as a Clinical Associate Professor in adolescent medicine at Stanford and she has a passion for making women’s lives better. Sophia, welcome to the podcast.
Sophia: 00:43 Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jennifer: 00:45 Well, I was really looking forward to this. I love what you guys are doing at Pandia Health. So why don’t we, before we dive into the conversation, let’s first get everyone who’s listening oriented. Let’s talk about Pandia Health. You guys have a really interesting message. Let’s start there and make sure everybody’s aware of what you guys are doing.
Sophia: 01:05 So Pandia Health was started in 2016 because I was giving a talk to a bunch of doctors on why women don’t take their birth control. And one of the top three reasons women don’t take their birth control is because they didn’t have it on hand, they didn’t have time to run to the pharmacy. Their prescription had expired or there were other issues. So my friend Perla Ni and I said, we can solve this, we will take the medicine, ship it to you and keep shipping it until you tell us to stop.
Jennifer: 01:34 That’s exactly what you want with that.
Sophia: 01:40 Yes. So then we ran Facebook and Google Adwords for free birth control delivery and 60 percent of the people that responded didn’t have a prescription. So, as a businessperson, I wasn’t going to let 60 percent of the traffic get away from me, potential customers. So we opened the telemedicine and our telemedicine is different from others’ telemedicine. We are an asynchronous telemedicine platform where you fill out a questionnaire 24/7 at your leisure, go to a pharmacy and get your blood pressure – at a pharmacy, a grocery store, or call up your doctor’s office or what I like is a fire station. The fire station, the EMTs, they are perfectly qualified to get your blood pressure and we were going to do a hot firemen campaign. Go get your blood pressure done. Calm down, take a deep breath because I don’t want the blood pressure elevated, but I do want your blood pressure.
Jennifer: 02:37 You know, anything that promotes the EMTs, I love. Actually, I’m on shift tonight, so that’s fun. I’ll tell them how you’re trying to promote them as hot firefighters. I’ll let them know that you guys do that. But I love that it’s asynchronous. That’s usually not what you think of when you think telemedicine. You think of making a face -to-face appointment right then. So I think the fact that you said, let’s face it, we’re not all going to be on at the same time, how can we make this work? Especially for birth control, when, especially once they originally get their prescription, you’re usually doing refills. So that makes a lot of sense.
Sophia: 03:14 We also don’t want any confidentiality breach, especially in this gig economy where people are working in a cubicle or a group office or at Starbucks or other group working facilities. If I have to get on a phone or a video with you and I’m like, is there any way you could be pregnant? And you’re like …
Jennifer: 03:36 Yeah, especially when your boss is walking by who maybe you don’t want to know that you might be pregnant …
Sophia: 03:38 Exactly. Or like, no, there’s no way, I haven’t had sex for six months. You know, you don’t want to announce that to everyone in the office.
Jennifer: 03:49 You really don’t. You really don’t. So one thing I loved about Pandia Health when we first started talking is that you have a really interesting marketing message. The one about free birth control delivery, you got to love that. It’s straightforward, it says what it is, but your other one is “periods are optional.” So talk to me about how you came up with that and how it’s being received because that is I would say avant garde in the birth control world. So talk to me about this.
Sophia: 04:18 So periods are optional. I had the epiphany that trying to get pregnant every month is – because we were trying to get pregnant and we didn’t get pregnant and so the only reason we build that lining of the uterus every single month is to catch an embryo. And if we’re, on average, not trying to catch an embryo from age 12 to 26, which is the first time average women have babies in the United States, or 35 for those of us who had to get through more education and more debt, then why are we bleeding every single month? Why are we building that lining? Waiting for the embryo knowing we don’t want an embryo at age 12 or 14, right?
Jennifer: 05:00 Right.
Sophia: 05:01 Bleeding every single month. And so I thought I had come up with this brilliant idea, however, a Dr. Coutinho had co-written a book called Is Menstruation Obsolete? And he goes over the medical argument that this incessant menstruation is actually a modern construct that, in the old days, we would get our periods at age 16, we would have three periods a year because we didn’t have enough nutrition to have it every single month. And then we would have eight babies and we would breastfeed for 18 months. Now, we’re getting our periods at 12 and getting 13 periods a year. We’re only having two babies and we’re only in breastfeeding for zero, three or six months. So we have 350 to 400 periods in our lifetime compared to the Dogon tribe in Mali, which Dr Beverly Strassman studied, which only has 110. So that’s three and a half to four times more periods than a woman in the natural state should have. And so doctors have known that periods are optional since the invention of the birth control pill. But we haven’t shared it with all the lay people yet and we now have 50 years of evidence that it doesn’t have any detrimental effects. The main concern would be blood clots. So if you have a history of blood clots in your family, then you definitely should get checked out and make sure you don’t have a blood disorder. But if you’re a smoker and 35, that is generally the greatest risk. And most of my patients are under 35 and, given that we’re in California for most of our patients, most of them aren’t smokers. But if you are a smoker and 35, then that would be a concern.
Jennifer: 06:48 Well let’s talk about this from the marketing perspective, and obviously that’s what my podcast tends to focus on. I love it that this is a message that you’re using because it’s very unique. But let’s talk about how are you testing it? Are you testing it against “free birth control delivery” to see which one gets more traction for you? How are you finding people’s response to it?
Sophia: 07:13 We hear from a lot of women that they have heard this, but they’ve been concerned about the side effects and the risks and the long-term possibility, but when we reassure them that it’s been done – if you ask most doctors, I’m betting nine out of 10 women physicians aren’t having regular periods, aren’t having any periods. And now that there’s a greater adoption of the long-acting, reversible contraceptives, IUD with hormone or the implant, where 70 percent of those women don’t get a period, then it’s sinking in people’s heads, “Hmm. My friends aren’t having periods. My doctors are not having periods. Why should I have periods?”
Jennifer: 07:52 And I would imagine for women especially who, I mean it could be for any women, but I do have friends with endometriosis and things where their periods are very painful and very heavy and I know that being on birth control was a tremendous relief to them.
Sophia: 08:07 Yeah. And what’s sad is a lot of women don’t realize that you should not have enough pain or sufficient pain that causes you to miss work or school. One of the top reasons for women missing work or school under the age of 25 is their period. The thing is they’re like, “My mom had bad periods. My grandma had bad periods. It just runs in our family.” Just because it runs in your family doesn’t mean you need to suffer through it. So if you have had pain, go see a doctor. There’s something we can do about it. Every time I give a talk there’s one woman out of 30 in the room who is like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been feeling cold and tired and I change my tampon every hour and it’s soaked” and it’s like you have too much blood. Or somebody like your friend with endometriosis who is like, “I just lay in bed in the fetal position” and in the old days we would hear stories of women just drinking whisky.
Jennifer: 09:06 The good ol’ days! Give me the tequila, I’ve got my period!
Sophia: 09:10 And can you imagine that for a 14-year-old or a 16-year-old girl.
Jennifer: 09:16 You know it is a problem. I mean, I know my friend occasionally gets such bad cramps, she’s fainted and I know I had that happen too with when I just had an IUD put it in. So that’s a different situation, but I remember just being able to yell out for my husband because I knew I was hitting the dirt fast.
Sophia: 09:30 Wow.
Jennifer: 09:31 It did not agree with me, but that is too much information. So let’s keep moving. Let’s talk about how you’re getting that message out. I mean, are you using ads still on Facebook and social media? Are you trying Google, are you using social media? Word of mouth? There are so many things but it’s such an intriguing message.
Sophia: 09:51 Yeah. So we’re doing it all, doing it via Google Adwords. So you know, if somebody is looking up bad cramps or dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, we’re going to say “In pain? Turn off your periods,” right? And then on Facebook, not so much because we can’t think of imagery that would go with that, but we are producing youtube videos on periods are optional if you’re on the pill or the ring. How to do it with those methods and we’re also doing PR. I’m reaching out to different newspapers and getting the word out from a medical perspective. So using my expertise to open doors to help educate women about this option and really wanting to get it out to 14-year-olds and their mothers because why suffer. And I asked them, are you going to do better on the SATs on your period or off your period?
Jennifer: 10:48 Exactly. Well, let’s talk about that. A lot of your market is Gen Z and Millennial women. So what are they really looking for and how do they respond to your message and what are the questions you’re finding?
Sophia: 11:00 Yeah. So we see there is a huge need for information and this is seen through our Youtube. We have a ton of people asking questions. People are desperate for this kind of information. And the evidence is, we made one video on first times trying birth control. We have 80,000 views, no promotion at all, no promotion. I don’t know how they’re finding it. We just put it up.
Jennifer: 11:23 That’s amazing. That’s fantastic. That tells you, right there, that you’ve found not only something people really want, but you found a way to communicate it to them that they were looking for. Because I know I have a teenage daughter and when she wants information, she goes to Youtube straight, she doesn’t Google it or anything. She goes right there.
Sophia: 11:43 Yes. And that is where my tween daughter goes, as well. Anything she wants to learn … how to program, how to write, how to draw, how to make Origami, how to Rubk’s cube you know, she has very diverse interests. I call my husband a Renaissance man and my daughters seems to have picked up those skills, as well, because I don’t have those.
Jennifer: 12:07 Well, you’re very focused and that’s good, too. Okay. So one of the things that is often an issue with marketing is that people find you and they’re interested, but they’re still a little cautious. So there’s that window when you have to build trust and get them to give you some information so that you can keep connecting with them. In your case, if you want them to actually move forward with birth control, you’re having to get them to trust that you’re real doctors. Trust that this is okay, trust that this will work and is covered by insurance or whatever it is. And then give you really personal information. How are you finding that is going? Are you finding people are right away ready to do that? Are you finding some people get nervous? Talk to me about what’s going on there.
Sophia: 12:54 Yes. So we are the only woman-founded, women-led company in this space, and that gives us a little credibility. So as I like to say, not only am I the founder and CEO, but I’m also a member of Pandia Health. I use this and I know your pain and I know what it’s like to run to the pharmacy and have to get your birth control. And I know what it’s like to freak out when your birth control runs out. So, hopefully, that message is getting through both on our website and in our messaging as we get it out there. The second point of trust is that we are the only practicing reproductive health physician-founded company in this space and we’re also reaching out through doctors. So if you go to your doctor’s office and they say, “Hey, do you want to run to the pharmacy every month or do you want to use this company started by my friend who I went to medical school with? Who uses it and who’s a professor at Stanford and went to MIT?” That gives you a lot of credibility.
Jennifer: 13:55 That is amazing because what I see very rarely is such a smooth interaction between online and offline and, in the real world, those two things are not separate. You know, we’ve all combined our internet life with our real life. They’re one and the same now. And yet I find a lot of companies in the healthcare space have a real hard time pulling that together. And when you go and you reach out to the doctors and pull them into your online platform, that is brilliant. And how much more reassuring is that to their patients that it comes from there. I think that’s fantastic.
Sophia: 14:28 Exactly. And it’s because it’s founded by doctors. I know how to get to doctors, I know how to present it to doctors and I know to play with doctors. One of our major competitors, they break the doctor-patient relationship because they force everyone to use their doctor. And we’re happy to be your doctor if you need it. But we’re happy to take the prescription written by your doctor and just fill it because our interest is getting that medication to you and billing every month for it.
Jennifer: 14:58 Brilliant. So when you find that they’re ready to start filling out stuff online, is that a comfortable thing? Are you losing some people in that process? Do they have more questions at that moment?
Sophia: 15:11 You are very perceptive.
Jennifer: 15:14 Well, we’ve talked before, Sophia …
Sophia: 15:18 We lost 50 percent of our customers after they gave us their name and email. And we’re curious as to what percentage are Lookie Loos and what percentage maybe need more reassurance. One way we follow up on that is our Patient Care Advisors, who we see as the trusted older sister or the cool auntie. She calls you up or texts you and says, “Hey, we noticed you dropped off. Is there anything we can do to help you continue or finish the process?” And as soon as we start asking, when was your last period, what allergies you have, what birth control are you on, people drop off because they’re like, yeah, this is serious.
Jennifer: 15:54 Exactly.
Sophia: 15:55 But we need to learn more about how to lose fewer than 50 percent.
Jennifer: 16:01 Well, how are they responding with the follow-up?
Sophia: 16:07 I believe we pick up another 50 percent of the 50 percent we lost. And so we are doing pretty well, actually.
Jennifer: 16:15 I will say just to start out with, that’s really good. And I think you kind of answered one of your own questions. One, I think texting is a brilliant way to respond if you’ve got that information on them because it’s casual and it sounds like, especially if you’re dealing with teens and college age, you know, anything that starts seeming a little too serious can make them nervous. They want it to be in the framework of their friends. Reaching out and saying, “Hey girl, we saw you were interested. Did you have a question or what’s going on?” Do we ask too many things? Are you just curious, you know, whatever you can do and keep it light, I think helps them go in. And sometimes when people have balked from asking a serious question, instead of trying to get them from Point A to Point Z, try and get them to Points B and C and maybe just ask them, “Listen, can we send you this or can we check back in with you?” Or something like that. So you can try again after they’re a little more comfortable. “We saw you stop reaching out. Could we send you a little more information?” This video or this, whatever, can be helpful, or see what this other person said and let us know if you’re interested.” I’m talking off the top of my head because I don’t know your brand voice as well as you do, but that’s usually the way to do it is offer them something that keeps them building trust with you and helps you answer their questions. Because they’re there for a reason. They didn’t get halfway through a form on a birth control site for no reason. You know, that’s too odd. They are clearly wanting to not get pregnant and not have periods or both.
Jennifer: 17:56 So think about the different things you can offer and we can always brainstorm that if you want or we can move on to other things. I don’t want you to share too much of your business model because, obviously, that’s often confidential. But I think that’s something that is good to have as a backup so that, if they’re too scared to give you everything and maybe they’re worried that their mom will find out from their insurance or something and it just got too real too quickly, you can reach out to them and say, “Hey.” You could do a poll and say, usually when people get halfway through and drop off, it’s either this, this or this, which one is yours? Honestly, a Facebook chat bot might be really good for you if you’re finding them on that particular social media. That could work or a text-based one. So that you can have a couple of automatic little follow-ups there going for you.
Sophia: 18:47 I like that.
Jennifer: 18:49 You guys are very automated so it works with what you’re doing. I think they probably just get nervous, don’t you?
Sophia: 18:57 Yeah. “Wow. This is real.” And we see it’s all or nothing. Either they just get all the way through or the don’t enter. They don’t stop in the middle.
Jennifer: 19:07 Interesting. Interesting. Well, that tells you good information also because then you can maybe reach out to them with something that is an intermediate step. Still, 50 percent of 50 percent being picked back up. That’s good. That is good. So let me talk to you about something else. When we talked about Gen Z and Millennial women, really that’s multiple audience segments, which comes up a lot in healthcare. You know, you’re rarely just aiming for one particular person. There’s usually a couple of different people that would use your service and that’s the case for you. So, I mean you’ve got college, you’ve got young professional, you have parents, maybe parents of daughters who are on your site, but also maybe parents who are like, no more children.
Sophia: 19:52 Or inbetween.
Jennifer: 19:57 Exactly. “Let me space this.” And possibly older women also who are like, “The last thing I need is a baby at this age.” So yes, there’s a whole range. How are you designing your marketing for all those different groups? Do you have a plan to branch out or are you staying really focused to start with?
Sophia: 20:14 We have been more focused on the 18- to 25-year-olds and we’re even getting more focused on the college market because we think we can get to them through student health. We can get to them through sororities, through organizations. We have connections with the Feminist Majority Foundation and they have campus organizations. We’re partnering with Period, the Movement, which is a nonprofit fundraising to cover feminine hygiene products for women who can’t afford it. And so part of our thing is, if we turn off periods, you won’t need as many.
Jennifer: 20:53 I just read today that Scotland is now providing free tampons and pads in schools and everything.
Sophia: 21:01 As it should be.
Jennifer: 21:01 And, as anyone who has ever been presenting for some business thing and realizes they just used their last one, we’ll get rid of the classic woman’s bonding thing of calling out to a stranger in the bathroom, “Do you have a Tampon?” without that. But an interesting thing that I love about what you’re doing is you are building trust with people over something really important at a very young age and it’s something that you can then grow with. Those 18- to 25-year-olds will eventually want to know about getting pregnant. They will want to know about breastfeeding, they will want to know about menopause eventually and you will be able to grow with them. So you are creating a market space that will trust you and build with you and Pandia Health can then grow to encompass all of that.
Sophia: 21:49 I think that’s exactly our vision.
Jennifer: 21:51 Yes, because you’re smart it.
Sophia: 21:54 Thank you. Well, I specifically chose the name Pandia Health. I think it’s really important when you’re choosing your name as part of your branding and marketing strategy. Pandia Is the Greek goddess of healing, light, full moon. And we knew that it could play for more than just birth control, that we want to be your friend for life. And for Pandia, I also made up the definition, “pan” is every and “dia” is day, so we have you covered every day, 365 days of the year. We call that “Pandia peace of mind.” Set it and forget it, and that can be from birth control to acne, to prenatal, to menopause to wrinkle cream. And, in the future, we’re happy to take all your medications. Right now. we’re starting with you young, making that friendship when you have no experience with the health community. We want to be the first one and the most delightful and the one that you trust.
Jennifer: 22:50 You know you’re going to spoil them, right? Because at one point they’re going to have to go into an emergency room or some regular doctor’s office and they’re going to be like, excuse me, my other doctor on Pandia Health understands me perfectly and always gives me what I want, and answers all of my questions before I even know I have them. And that will be a sad wake-up call, but that’s okay. What I love is that they can also easily bring in their older sisters, their mothers, their cousins, they can bring in all of the women they know. And that is a beautiful thing. And in fact, what a lovely Mother’s Day campaign that would be, for you to bring in your mom, maybe your mom needs a break from periods.
Sophia: 23:33 Yes. Or your mom needs to teach the teenager that periods are optional. We’re actually reaching out through Ms Magazine and going to be running an ad in there. Next one that’s coming out says, “Tell your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and anybody with a uterus that periods are optional and that they can you choose whether they want to have kids,” which I think is a pretty big one, too. Because your average woman going through college is not thinking, “Oh, right now, right now’s the time.”
Sophia: 24:07 I hope not.
Jennifer: 24:10 And please let me worry about it every 28 days. I think that is the clincher. Sophia, I love talking with you. You have such a brilliant business mind; it’s just awesome.
Sophia: 24:21 Thank you.
Jennifer: 24:22 Well, you do. And you don’t always see that in people who come in to business from a different background, but you have that beautiful blend of medical background and business. I think that it will be very exciting to watch the direction Pandia Health takes over the next few years because I think it’s going to grow.
Sophia: 24:37 We are hoping – from your mouth to the sky and to everyone out there and to all your listeners and all your future listeners.
Jennifer: 24:47 Absolutely. Sophia, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us and for coming on the podcast.
Sophia: 24:52 And thank you so much for doing this and all the great ideas you’ve given me in this podcast. Now I’m going to get on a Mother’s Day campaign and friends telling friends.
Jennifer: 25:04 Of course – you definitely want that, especially if you’re working with college age, everyone hangs out in groups so you definitely want to see that. For everyone listening, you can learn more about Sophia’s work with Pandia Health at pandiahealth.com. We are talking with Dr. Sophia Yen, who is the CEO and Co-founder of Pandia Health. Pandia Health brings birth control to any woman with a mailbox and an Internet connection, and I am your host. I’m Jennifer Michelle, of MichelleMarketingStrategies.com, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads and grow their businesses. Catch you next time!