A few weeks ago, Obstetrics and Gynecology released a study showing how the US has defied global trends by experiencing a 27% increase in the maternal mortality rate since 2000. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
This shocking statistic underscores the importance of investing more in pre- and post-natal care going forward. While there are a lot of factors involved, particularly the rise of obesity and gestational diabetes, we in the technology community have a massive opportunity to develop solutions to improve the health of new and expecting moms. Child development experts talk a lot about the first thousand days of a child’s life, and how these are the most important for cognitive, physical, and psychological development. However, neurological development starts much earlier. Studies suggest that what’s good for the mom is also good for the baby: a mother’s pre-partum psychiatric health, as well as nutrition, have significant lifelong effects on the child.
What’s good for mom and baby is also good for insurers and employers. This, in turn, creates incredibly exciting business opportunities to change our troubling national trajectory. For insurers, maternity and newborn care make up the biggest category of hospital spend by commercial insurers and Medicaid alike – $50B per year, to be exact. Employers are often self-insured, meaning they must bear these costs as well. However, another big incentive for employers to support pre- and post-natal care is to improve employee retention and productivity once parental leave (if they offer it) ends. If better preventive care, and more accessible emergency care and education, can decrease healthcare costs and make employees more likely to return to work, it’s in everyone’s interest for insurers and employers to pick up the tab.
Thanks to these dynamics, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in the number of startups focused on new and expecting parents. Innovation is happening on all fronts: nutrition guidance, better food, maternity wearables, community portals, virtual classes, telemedicine, and care provider marketplaces, just to name a few.
What new companies will be the most successful and world-changing? There are a number of qualities that excite us. (1) Founders who come from the healthcare community will be the best positioned to work with institutions to prove efficacy. This, in turn, will accelerate adoption by payers. (2) Strong brand and design will be critical to get parents excited to use a product or service, which will accelerate engagement and adoption. Purely demonstrating scientific effectiveness without a delightful user experience won’t be enough – even parents don’t like to eat their broccoli that much. (3) Any solution that helps to leverage an OB/GYN’s time better is much easier to scale. Doctors are already overwhelmed with full patient schedules, but there are many patient needs that can be addressed by others in the medical community and beyond.
If you have thoughts on this, we’d love to chat about it. What could be more important for our future?