When Kate Ryder launched Maven, a digital clinic for women focusing on sexual health, mental health and primary care, a year ago in New York City, she didn’t anticipate how much of the clientele would be college students.
“The conversation around women’s health was everywhere for me. A lot of my focus was around starting a family — all of the complicated issues around maternal health, everything from fertility to pregnancy to miscarriage to postpartum depression,” Ryder said. “Then what we saw is we definitely had a lot of thirtysomethings and twentysomethings using the product, and also all of these college students searching for birth control and just general advice about mental health or nutrition.”
More than one out of four Maven users were college students, Ryder realized, based on surveys and the number of signups with .edu addresses, with the service’s video and messaging services being used by students at more than 700 campuses.
“College girls are out in the world for the first time, their healthcare has been disrupted, you’re starting from scratch,” Ryder said. “That’s why Maven was so appealing.”
To learn more about young women’s healthcare concerns, Maven developed an ambassador program on campuses, including at NYU, Columbia and Fordham, and developed a new product just for college students based on the feedback.
The result, Maven Campus, launches Sept. 8, just in time for the new school year, with a different pricing model than the original Maven.
Unlike the pay-as-you-go Maven product, which offers access to a network of more than 700 providers nationwide, including nurse practitioners, doctors and specialists such as doulas, lactation consultants and midwives, Maven Campus is an unlimited subscription service.
For $45 a month or $300 for the year, Maven Campus users can send unlimited private text messages and have unlimited real-time video appointments — akin to Facetime — with the providers in Maven’s network.
“One of the big things that we found is students are definitely using the video appointments, and a lot of them love to send messages,” Ryder said. “So a lot of the new product is geared toward that.”
The unlimited subscription is also ideal for students, versus the original pay-as-you-go model.
“Healthcare’s a new behavior for students,” Ryder said. “Unlimited makes more sense — they’re going to use it proactively and develop good healthcare habits later.”
That aspect is key for Sarah Breen, a junior at Barnard College who is part of Maven’s ambassador program there.
“I was always hesitant to go see a physician if it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” Breen said. “Having this subscription service will make that decision a lot easier. I’ll definitely consult a professional a lot more.”
Having access to healthcare professionals at any time — and not relying on limited campus health services walk-in hours — is also appealing to Breen.
“My freshman year I was sick a lot and would go to health services pretty frequently. A lot of time I would have to miss class for that,” she said. “A lot of [Maven Campus] is about the convenience, and having this judge-free space where you can ask your health-related questions and receive helpful feedback, and you don’t even really have to leave your dorm.”
Not all health needs can be addressed digitally, of course, but Ryder sees Maven Campus helping with primary care issues such as UTIs, sinus infections, acne and birth control prescriptions, as well as mental health, one of Maven’s biggest areas.
“Mental health [problems] disproportionately affects women, and it starts in college,” Ryder said. “Mental health is a great use case in telemedicine — it’s not like you ever have to be physically examined. And it’s super private — you can do it from the comfort of your dorm room or your home.”