Kerranna Williamson and Amy Domangue are incredibly passionate about women’s healthcare and helping close the gender disparity in accessible care options. According to a recent report, more than 90 percent of the most popular health plans charge women more than men on an individual basis.
In 2016, the duo began to innovate within this area by creating an affordable marketplace for female-focused genetic testing services through their startup, ALIS Health. The goal was to provide access to testing and improve awareness, diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases.
“A focus on women’s health is important for many reasons. It is widely accepted that sex and gender differences exist in both the prevalence of health conditions and the use of health services,” Williamson and Domangue shared with Hypepotamus in 2017.
“Women have unique reproductive healthcare needs, have higher rates of chronic illnesses, and are greater users of the health care system.”
But they felt like they weren’t fully addressing the root problem that affects women’s access to healthcare. To delve deeper into their business model, they applied and enrolled into the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, focused on healthcare startups and powered by Techstars.
“Our participation in their program was contingent on us shifting our business model, but we didn’t know how exactly that was going to look like,” says Domangue. “During the program, we had a chance to meet with UnitedHealthcare, Anthem, and other providers in the space and based on their input, we decided to make a slight pivot.”
Now, instead of a marketplace focusing on just genetic testing, the team has broadened their services to connecting women with online health services in general.
ALIS Health has pivoted to Jessie Health, a full-service, on-demand digital healthcare assistant for women. “Now, they’ll come to Jessie and for the first time, they’ll get a chance to work with it to navigate the services that are most appropriate to them,” says Domangue.
Jessie works as a health concierge, able to answer questions about where to find vetted general health, nutrition, sexual/reproductive health, mental health, and dermatology services online. Within Jessie, the user can schedule a video chat with a doctor, order at-home lab tests, and get connected to the appropriate provider in their area for specific concerns.
“As a woman myself, I don’t think we think about what’s going on with our health. I find simply being asked, ‘How are you feeling today?’ will elicit a whole new response and the things that you should be taking in to consideration,” says Domangue.
Jessie will not provide a diagnosis, so the team has formed a network of preferred partnerships with online health services and providers to add value to the digital assistant. After helping the user navigate through different services, they may be able to receive discounted rates with Jessie-preferred vendors.
Jessie’s name reflects the team’s goal to be inclusive and gender neutral, and engage users by putting them on the right path for their concerns.
“We selected a brand that personifies one of the really key parts of this project, which is making sure that women feel like they have a relationship with this online tool. It’s not just simply another company pushing the digital health services,” says Domangue.
Jessie’s target customer and SaaS revenue model remains focused on large self-insured employers who want save on employee health costs. They will also receive a referral fee through partnership referrals as an additional income stream.
They’re focused on women of all demographics and using the current public beta to test how end-users interact with the product.
Since launching the product this month, Williamson and Domangue will be ramping up fundraising in February as they can now show data on traction.