Hello Femtech: Can Telehealth Change the Way We Treat UTIs?

It may not be a glamorous topic, but it’s an important one (spoiler alert: we’re gonna talk about pee). Urinary tract infections (or, UTIs) are ubiquitous; nearly 50% of women will have a UTI at least once in their life.

UTIs are an infection of any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. Due to our anatomy and a host of other hormonal risk factors, UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections experienced by women. According to the Office on Women’s Health, women get UTIs up to 30 times more often than men do, and as many as 4 in 10 women who get a UTI will get at least one more within six months. Talk about adding insult to injury!

These infections are typically easy to treat, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying and uncomfortable. UTIs are marked by a persistent feeling that you need to pee, a burning sensation when you actually do use the bathroom, red, pink and/or strong-smelling urine, and pelvic pain. These symptoms can limit pleasure, negatively impact our productivity, make us feel awkward and embarrassed, and generally lead to a miserable week.

Adding to that misery are the antiquated health care options traditionally available to UTI patients. When you’re in pain, needing to pee all the time, and emerging from the bathroom in tears, the last thing you want to do is go out in public, announce your situation to strangers, and sit in a doctor’s waiting room for half the day in order to find relief. Not to mention the fact that the costs for UTI care can vary dramatically depending on where a patient seeks treatment and whether they have health insurance. A quick scan of CostHelper shows that costs can range anywhere from $60 at a clinic to nearly $400 at a hospital emergency room.

Because they’re so common, UTIs are relatively easy to diagnose (either through a urine test or by simply verifying the patient’s symptoms) and treat (typically with generic antibiotics). Once a patient begins antibiotics, most symptoms go away within a couple of days.

In other words, these infections are usually a quick fix, yet traditional treatment options are inconvenient, inefficient, and often overpriced. Luckily, though, the increase in telehealth innovations is opening the door to newer, better options for women seeking UTI care. At Jessie, we’ve partnered with two such telehealth providers who make UTI diagnosis and treatment convenient, affordable, and discrete. With both of these platforms, you no longer have to leave your house or take off work in order to find the care and comfort you need.

San Francisco-based Hey Doctor offers easy, secure online medical visits for a range of simple health care needs, including UTI diagnosis and treatment. An online UTI visit is quick (about 5 minutes!), doesn’t require insurance, and costs just $25. If a prescription is needed, HeyDoctor will help find the lowest price options, submitting the prescription directly to your chosen pharmacy (usually within 4 hours of the online visit) and sending you a secure message with your personal treatment plan. Follow-up questions don’t require a follow-up appointment; you can chat with your board certified doctor anytime through the platform’s secure messaging portal.

Also headquartered in San Francisco, Lemonaid is an online health care platform that offers virtual doctors visits, monthly medicine delivery for things like birth control and hair loss prescriptions, as well as treatment services and prescription pick-up for a range of common health care needs including UTIs. Patients start by filling out a short online questionnaire and are quickly connected to a video consultation with a licensed physician or nurse practitioner (the average wait time for a visit is 2 minutes). The care provider will submit your prescription to your local pharmacy, message you when your prescription has been sent, and share a secure link to your treatment plan. Like HeyDoctor, Lemonaid’s online visits cost just $25. If you’d like, Lemonaid can also share a summary of your care with your primary doctor to keep all of your treatment records in sync.

We’re thrilled to see health innovators like HeyDoctor and Lemonaid use technology to make UTI care more affordable and accessible. Their work directly resonates with our mission to eliminate gender disparities in health care and connect women to fast, affordable on-demand care.

However, not all telehealth platforms are created equal and as more online services hit the Internet, it can be challenging to determine which options are reliable and safe. If you Google “online treatment UTI,” for example, you get over 18 million results. When you’re in an uncomfortable situation, you shouldn’t have to sift through cagey links and anonymous Internet reviews to find relief.

Let alone, virtual care is regulated state by state and often requires that you receive virtual care from practitioners physically located in the same state as you. The result, you may or may not have access to certain platforms depending on where you are physically located.

That’s why we’re doing the work for you. We built Jessie to help you make confident decisions about your health, connecting you with the most trusted care providers and resources available. We only partner with leading vendors who are vetted by women, for women. Whether you’re seeking UTI treatment, need guidance with another health concern, or know a femtech innovator who might like to partner with our personalized platform, we invite you to sign up for our beta at: https://www.hellojessie.com/.

Kerranna Williamson + Amy Domangue
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