The COVID-19 pandemic has truly made an impact on how our health care system operates today. During Worth’s recent Women & Worth Summit, Worth editorial director Emily Cegielski discussed with Simmone Taitt, CEO and founder of Poppy Seed Health, and Kaile Zagger, chief operating officer of Aspira Women’s Health, how technology can provide equitable health care for all.
Cegielski started off the panel by introducing how Taitt and Zagger got into health care. Taitt got into health care after she had experienced a miscarriage back in 2016 and was provided with no information and little access to emotional and mental support. This inspired her to start Poppy Seed Health because she knew that she wasn’t the only one going through pregnancy loss. So, she founded Poppy Seed Health to give information to and support for all birthing people. Zagger was first inspired to get into health care when her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer at age 40. Her mother had been misdiagnosed multiple times, and so Zagger wanted to utilize digital tools to help prevent what had happened to her mother and help scope out early diagnosis for ovarian cancer in women. Zagger had worked in health care technology for some time but ventured into the women’s health space after meeting Valerie Palmieri, who is now president and CEO of Aspira Women’s Health.
After giving their background, the panelists discussed how our health care landscape looks today. Taitt mentioned that prior to COVID, “women were not making time for their own health.” They weren’t getting the type of mental health support they needed, she said, and it was difficult to get access to in-person support. However, the pandemic opened a lot of virtual doors, including the adoption of telehealth. These technological advances have been very beneficial because “it gets [you] what you need in the moments that you need it,” Taitt said. Zagger also added that the access telehealth provides is vital, but there is still a need for health care appointments in physical form.
Next, they discussed what the innovations of health care look like for the future. Zagger and Taitt discussed how artificial intelligence and machine learning are vital. Zagger mentioned that there is so much information in the genome, family history, connection of different diseases and impact of cancer that have to be scoped out for each person. Predictive analytics through technology can build this out and could be lifesaving. Both Taitt and Zagger agree that the coming innovations will be helpful in providing a holistic view in the journey of the maternal and disease spaces.
Aside from technology, there are also other things that we need to look out for to have equitable health care. Taitt mentioned the Support Through Loss Act, which gives paid time off work for those experiencing pregnancy loss or serious challenges to starting a family, such as an unsuccessful adoption. “People should not be burdened, and in fact, one in four women will have a miscarriage or stillbirth in their reproductive years, but most of us are not sharing with anyone,” Taitt said. She also said, “if we are not building in technology to include people who are not in Medicaid and Medicare, we have to think about how we build not just inclusivity but actually processes—things that are happening, such as child care tax laws.”
Then, Cegielski mentioned how recent cases and legislation, including the Texas abortion law, have felt likes an attack on women’s health and women’s rights, asking the panelists how this digital transformation can empower women and the health care system. Zagger said that “the more we start educating and spreading awareness, we will continue to have progression.” Taitt mentioned the meaning of having power. Digital health helps facilitate having a private conversation with your provider whenever and wherever you are. You can talk through what is best for you and that can help you take your power back in some way. The digital health transformation gives support and safe spaces to women, as well as those who are disparaged in health care, such as the Black and queer communities.
To close out the panel, Cegielski asked how Taitt and Zagger think the women’s health care space will continue to transform. Zagger mentioned how this digital transformation will help solve complex issues in the disease space. She also added how there is a need to get back to personalized medicine and that everyone needs their own individualized approach, which digital tools and innovations can help. Taitt added that Poppy Seed Health will help evolve women’s health care as it provides the compassionate care that women need. She also said that, “there will be no other choice for our health care system but to transform, and it’s time to build something new and build forward.”
Overall, digital health has made a very positive influence in our world today and will continue to transform. I think that as we continue to spread awareness despite the attacks on women’s health and rights today, it will benefit us in the future and continue to progress. Both Taitt and Zagger have truly embraced digital health and use it to empower women and other minorities.