If you’ve ever suddenly come down with a deeply uncomfortable ailment like strep throat or a urinary-tract infection, you likely have two immediate thoughts: “I know exactly what this is and how I need to treat it,” and, “How am I going to get in to see a doctor right away?”
Enter Maven, a women’s health app that connects you with doctors via video chat, allowing you to ask questions, get advice, and receive prescriptions.
It costs $35 a session to speak with a doctor, but first-time users can get a discount code which brings that cost down to $10. Other appointments can cost less – it’s only $18 to speak with a nurse practitioner – so some first-time visits are free of charge.
Maven was founded by Kate Ryder, who came up with the idea for the app when she was working at a venture-capital fund in London. Ryder noticed that all of her friends were starting to get pregnant and were receiving a lot of misinformation or having trouble finding the right doctor.
“Healthcare is such a female-dominated market, but there are so few products that actually help women through a lot of these issues,” Ryder told Business Insider.
Ryder said she thinks there’s a lot of gray area in women’s health and a lot of issues that are female-specific, like side effects from birth control or options for those who have trouble getting pregnant.
“As a result, I think healthcare is a very different experience for a woman than a man,” Ryder said. “It requires trust with the healthcare provider and more of a relationship-based model than a commodified model.”
I tried Maven myself a few days ago, simply because I needed it: I just moved to a new city, and I haven’t had time to find a doctor (better yet make an appointment), and a prescription I take every day had just run out. I was desperate.
I have to admit, I was skeptical of the service up until the moment a doctor appeared on my screen. It seemed too good to be true and I was worried that the doctors wouldn’t be legitimate, despite having researched mine to death. How could I only be paying $10 for an appointment? How could she legally prescribe me medication?
But in the end, it was one of the best healthcare experiences I’ve had in a while.
Here’s how it went:
Signing up for Maven was pretty straightforward. The app is free to download and it was easy to set up an account.
Next I started the process for booking an appointment, which requires you, like most doctor visits, to give a reason for needing an appointment.
I then scrolled through a list of available practitioners, which included a few OB/GYNs and general practitioners, and six or seven nurse practitioners.
This wasn’t the practitioner I chose, but there are plenty of both male and female health care workers on the app. I was able to read each of their bios, which list qualifications, experience, education and a few professional references.
Ryder said that in the beginning, Maven’s staff was finding doctors on LinkedIn and through insurance companies and sending them postcards inviting them to join, even though the app didn’t exist yet.
“We give them tests, we give them case studies, we do reference checks, we do interviews,” Ryder said. “They were allowing us to do all that even though they didn’t know anything about us in the beginning.”
I selected a doctor and a time slot and waited until it was time to meet. Shortly before 7 p.m., I logged onto the app and launched the appointment. My doctor quickly joined me on the call and asked me a few preliminary questions, but mainly wanted to know why I needed a doctor.
We chatted for about 10 minutes, during which time she prescribed me a one-month refill of my medication. She even quizzed me on the proper doses and what to do if something goes wrong or if I accidentally misuse it.
After hearing I was located in New York City, the doctor also gave me recommendations of three doctors she used to work with who I could see in the area.
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At the end of our call, I asked my doctor why she’s on the app. She said it’s not really great compensation — after all, my appointment only cost $10 — she just wants to make a difference in women’s health.
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“With the doctors, it’s definitely not compensation, it’s definitely more mission driven,” Ryder said. “Some of our nutritionist or nurse practitioners, it’s maybe a little bit more mission driven – one of our nutritionists said we pay for her daughter’s dance classes every month – but for our OBGYNs, almost all of them, this is just pure mission.”
The next day, I was able to go pick up a one-month supply for my medication, which should hold me over until I can see a doctor in person. But now that I’ve experienced how easy and convenient — not to mention cheap — a virtual doctor visit can be, I’m not really looking forward to the real thing.
- Thomson Reuters