When Varsha Rao first met the founders of Nurx, she immediately knew that she wanted to support their mission to help customers get access to affordable and accessible birth control options. She was one of the early investors in the company and came onboard as CEO in 2019. Today, Nurx states that they delivers contraception and personalized care to more than 500,000 people across the country.
People who have periods have unique healthcare needs. Individuals who can get pregnant have contact with the medical system from a young age and are tied into the healthcare system in an intimate way. Throughout their lives, these patients think about how to manage periods, prevent pregnancy, prevent STIs, preserve fertility, manage pregnancy, and navigate menopause, among other needs.
The needs of people who have periods are also different across the United States; more than 19 million of these people live in “contraceptive deserts,” where they lack reasonable access to a health center that offers a full range of contraceptive methods. Other people may live in communities that have varying views of contraception. A digital health company like Nurx can provide medical care and birth control to women across the US in a speedy manner.
According to the CDC National Survey of Family Growth, 65.3% of people who have periods aged 15–49 in the United States use a method of contraception and nearly all of these people use contraception at some point in their life. However, it’s not always easy to get birth control or remember to take it. Approximately 31% of oral contraceptive users say they have missed taking their birth control because they were not able to get their next supply in time, according to the 2020 KFF Women’s Health Survey.
The Nurx mission is to use technological advances to make it more convenient and accessible for people to stay on top of their health and receive reliable information about their bodies and how to take care of them - that’s where Amazon Alexa comes in. Nurx delivers vital health information via web, app, social media and email; with a new Alexa skill for birth control reminders and information on patient’s health, Amazon Alexa offers another path for Nurx to reach people where they are to deliver the information they need to stay in control of their health.
“Giving patients access to high-quality health information and medication reminders in a way that works with their busy lives empowers them to be proactive about their health,” said Nurx CEO Varsha Rao. “By creating the Nurx skill for Amazon Alexa we’re able to reach our patients in a new way and in different settings to more completely partner with them in the ongoing project of taking care of themselves.”
The Nurx skill for Alexa allows users to get healthcare information and reminders from their homes, a need that has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more users spent more time at home, Nurx stated that they saw tremendous growth in requests for services: they experienced a 50% increase in birth control requests, more than 100% increase in demand for home STI testing, herpes treatment and emergency contraception.
With the Nurx skill for Alexa, people taking birth control can set reminders to take their daily pill at the same time every day, which is important for preventing unplanned pregnancies. When taken every day as prescribed, the birth control pill is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, but in reality birth control pills are about 91% effective, meaning that 9 out of 100 people using the pill get pregnant each year — and that’s in large part due to missed doses per Planned Parenthood. In addition to pill reminders, the Nurx skill will answer patients’ most common questions about birth control and provide reliable information about sexual health. Using commands such as “Alexa, ask Nurx how the birth control shot works” or “Alexa, ask Nurx for a fun fact,” users can learn more about their birth control options and get tips and insights on topics ranging from how often to test for sexually transmitted infections to whether there’s truth to the rumor that their menstrual period can “sync” with a roommate’s (tip: that’s a myth).
Nurx believes that the adoption of digital health technologies will continue post-pandemic and that the best is yet to come. When healthcare providers and digital health practices provide patients with information and access in whatever way that works best for them in that moment — whether on the screen of a phone, through the alert of a smartwatch or through voice with Alexa — health can become seamlessly interwoven into patients’ lives. Instead of healthcare being something people think about once or twice a year at the doctor’s office, and then forget about until the next appointment, it can now be integrated into the everyday and lead to more informed patients, improved medication adherence and ultimately better health.