Alicia Jackson, the founder and CEO, talks with Chief Healthcare Executive® about her company and the lack of awareness of the issues women are facing as they age.
Alicia Jackson says she never thought she would be working on healthcare for women in menopause.
Nonetheless, that’s exactly what she’s doing. Jackson is the CEO and founder of Evernow, a virtual care company helping women navigate menopause and the transition to menopause. Patients can pay for memberships and get help from experts in dealing with various symptoms of menopause.
In an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Jackson says she initially knew very little about menopause. “I was so uneducated about this space, I thought that women went through menopause at the age of 65,” she says. In reality, women typically enter menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, according to the National Institute of Aging.
But Jackson says she became motivated to start Evernow as she learned more about menopause, and saw many women frustrated with the lack of help available to them.
Menopause “is the trigger of all the diseases of aging for women,” Jackson says.
Women entering menopause, particularly those who enter it earlier in life, face higher risks for heart disease and other serious health complications.
“This event that every woman goes through is not just a nuisance event,” Jackson says. “It fundamentally changes their bodies and physiology and makes them much more susceptible to aging and the diseases of aging, to the extent that there's very clear data now that the later you go through menopause, the more likely you will live a longer, healthier life.”
Jackson says as she talked to more women, she heard similar stories. Women said they thought they may be entering menopause, or that something is going on with their body, she recalls. Women said doctors told them there was nothing they could do. And she says there’s a profound lack of understanding about menopause in women, including from physicians.
“I just was stunned at how under-researched, under invested in, under-educated women and their doctors are about this space and about menopause,” Jackson says.
Evernow announced last week that it has formed a partnership with Talkspace, an online behavioral health company. In the partnership, Evernow members will get free access to mental health resources. In addition, Talkspace members will get discounts to Evernow’s care plans.
‘We can’t move fast enough’
Jackson says she wants her company to ensure that women have top-tier, affordable care for going through perimenopause and menopause. She also wants her company to collect more data and move the science in the field forward.
So far, she says Evernow has had 160,000 women sign up for at least an initial trial. Evernow offers annual subscriptions and month-to-month plans. With millions of women in menopause or approaching it, Jackson says there are plenty of women who need assistance.
“We can't move fast enough,” Jackson says. “There isn’t enough being done in this space because the market is so big.”
Subscription plans have various costs, but patients can get plans for $29 per month. Evernow is going with a direct-to-consumer approach.
“We've been really, really strong on trying to have it super affordable, and you don’t need insurance for it,” Jackson says.
Women with menopause can have a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and difficulty sleeping. Some can have issues with their memory or mood swings, and experience anxiety or depression. And some women experience issues they are reluctant to discuss, including vaginal health issues, dryness, painful sex, and urine leakage, she notes.
Many women aren’t familiar with all the symptoms of menopause, partly because it hasn’t been a topic women feel comfortable discussing, she says.
“Menopause, until very recently, was not something you ever spoke about, to just about anyone, even your own mother,” she says. “And that's only just starting to change.”
Plus, Jackson says most doctors receive scant training in menopause. Roughly one in five obstetrics and gynecology residents say they receive training in menopause medicine and that they had a formal menopause curriculum, a John Hopkins University study found. Jackson says the medical community “has not been trained in this space.”
Invest in women’s health
Jackson founded the company five years ago. Earlier in her career, Jackson worked as the deputy director of the biological technologies office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a military agency which focuses on cutting-edge research. She says that experience helped her in thinking outside the box and seeing how to build a company from the ground up.
“I got very much into healthcare and very excited about the advances in science, research and technology, to be able to actually move the ball forward on healthcare,” Jackson says.
Women’s health still needs much greater attention and research, especially for issues affecting women over the age of 40, she says.
“So much of women's health is still focused on reproductive medicine,” Jackson says. “And that's such a small portion of a woman's life. We really know very little about aging and women's health.”
Employers need to think more about keeping women in the workforce, she says. Evernow released a survey at the HLTH Conference in October which found that roughly two-thirds of respondents said employers overlook the needs in menopause, and most said they are leery of talking about menopause with HR.
“Women do not feel comfortable bringing this up at work,” Jackson says. “Especially because they're worried about being discriminated against and especially if they have a male manager, they're even less likely to bring it up.”
Hospitals and health systems should expand their services for women in menopause or approaching menopause, she says.
“Start a menopause center, or a mid-life women's health center or whatever they want to call it,” Jackson says. “They need physicians and programs that are focused on women at this stage of life.
“And they need people trained in it and cross-trained in it,” she adds. “So that means even the cardiologist and even the orthopedic surgeon, and all these folks need to be trained in menopause and the effects on women's bodies, because women are going to multitudes of different doctors and getting different advice from all of them. So really having a training program where people across disciplines are very well versed in menopause, and the impact on women's bodies, I think could just be so powerful.”