Ro operates digital health clinics for men’s and women’s health and smoking cessation

Interview with Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco Saman Rahmanian, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Ro, a telemedicine startup that, in addition to smoking cessation, also runs digital health clinics for the health of men and women. The company has raised $ 376.1 million including a $ 200 million round in July 2020.

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Our goal for these digital health podcasts is to understand these three general questions as well: How do we empower the consumer? Are we creating productivity that also enables us to reduce overall economic costs? How is this advancement changing the role of the doctor?

Highlights from the interview:

  • Ro is building a new patient-centered health system. That means the company works every day to put patients back in control of their health through its vertically integrated primary care platform, which provides them with a seamless, personalized end-to-end experience for all of their basic health needs.
  • Before Ro, the company started out as a novel with its first product focused on men’s health and erectile dysfunction in particular, before expanding to 25 different conditions, including women’s health, with Rory.
  • Early on, the company had talks about a tight start, even though they had broad ambitions. Too broad a start would have meant performance wasn’t really good in one area, so the focus was initially on men’s health and ED before expanding.
  • Ro uses ED and other conditions to get men into primary care they are usually reluctant to enter. The company is building an established trust after which it can care more about its health needs. That’s what happens in a traditional doctor-patient relationship, but Ro makes it more convenient and affordable.
  • The company has found more similarities than differences in the way men and women access care on the platform, and even women signing up on the Roman platform. Because of this, Ro has had internal discussions for the past year or two about whether the branding of Roman and Rory could possibly be ditched and all due diligence put under the Ro umbrella instead. There will likely be a push to make this change happen over the next few months.
  • The company launched its smoking cessation product, Zero, because many of its patients were smokers, which caused other health problems, including ED. The program has a high success rate, although it is very difficult to get people to pay for treatment in order to stop doing something they long for. Because of this, Zero, which costs $ 20 to $ 60 a month and lasts for three months, is often funded by employers and other organizations.
  • Ro has developed its own technology to ruin its platform in the background. This includes the company’s own operation and its own infrastructure for supplying power to the provider network. It has built its own EHR system and sales network for pharmacies. By linking different providers and providers, it was not possible to achieve a seamless experience with patients, but rather innovations were achieved in all areas.
  • Ro recently teamed up with New York State for a vaccination campaign. There are 2.1 million New Yorkers who are 65 years of age or older and live with chronic illness, making it unsafe or too difficult or impossible to travel to get the vaccine. Ro gives vaccinations directly at home, free of charge to recipients.
  • Ro’s partners in the vaccine campaign include Bark, General Catalyst and First Mark, while Uber has sponsored free rides for healthcare workers. The company has considered expanding vaccine supply to other states. However, this depends on the vaccine supply provided by the state and local governments.
  • Users on Ro are still paying out of pocket, and the company has no plans to purchase insurance. Today people pay for their health indirectly, either through taxes or through employers. The result is, when they go to the doctor’s office or pharmacy, they can be the patient, but they are not the customer because the customer is the insurance company. This leads to people returning to the same doctor even if they have had a terrible experience because people believe they are not paying for it directly and there is no incentive to do better for the patient. Ro believes that paying cash is an important feature of a patient-centered healthcare system.
  • Rahmanian’s vision for the future of health is that most transactions take place in the patient’s home rather than in the hospital or clinic. During the pandemic, we saw telemedicine and remote patient monitoring go mainstream. That is the vision and Ro is building every piece of his healthcare system to make this a reality.

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