Special Delivery: CEO, Co-Founder Solving Healthcare Access for Women
Gloria Lau’s LinkedIn profile states: “Data is gold. I’m a modern day gold digger.”
What this co-founder and CEO of Alpha Medical has done for women all across the country is worth more than gold.
The telemedicine company Lau created in 2017 offers dermatological, birth control and Latisse lashes access to young women online and through delivery, solving some of their more common, elective and predictable health care access needs.
With the brand launched online earlier this year, Alpha Medical is on track to solve access problems for women in a big way.
“If we do everything right, Alpha Medical can be the access point for women 18-35 for all their medical needs. We could have massive impact for our patients,” says Lau, who grew up in Hong Kong, and attended University of California-Los Angeles to study engineering in 1996.
After graduating in 1999, Lau went on to earn her masters in engineering at Stanford University, then her PhD in engineering, in 2004. Her first job was as a research scientist at Thomson Reuters, where she stayed six years.
In 2010, Lau went to LinkedIn as a data scientist, where she worked until 2014, before becoming vice president of data at Timeful, which was then acquired at Google. She stayed at Google until late 2015.
In all her positions at these companies, says Lau, who has 11 patents, she was one of only a few women data scientists. “The only thing that was hard about it was the difficulty to look to female role models in upper management. They were non-existent.”
After leaving Google, Lau says she went on to various startups, driven by “exploring major pain points,” she says. Now with two children of her own, she says her biggest concern was healthcare. So she began her research and came up with this idea.
Alpha Medical is the response to direct to consumer health care for online prescriptions and diagnoses, she says, saving women time, energy and offering convenience.
According to the company website,”the healthcare journey starts with basic medical needs – offering hormonal contraceptives, acne and anti-aging treatment, and elective cosmetic therapy, Alpha patients have access to a team of doctors and nurse practitioners, support for both insurance-covered and outside-of-insurance conditions, along with free shipping right to the patient’s home.”
Close to one-third, or 28 percent of young people in the United States do not have a primary care provider, according to Lau. Patients wait an average of 29 days for a doctor’s appointment in the U.S.
More than 65 million Americans live in what many researchers call a “primary care desert,” where the total number of primary care providers only meet 50 percent or less of what the community needs.
Simple contraception access is off-limits to many. Of the 66 million women of reproductive age living in the U.S., more than 20 million are in need of publicly funded contraception. Among that 20 million, 97 percent live in contraceptive deserts, or areas without access to a health center that offers a full range of contraceptive methods. For some, the nearest pharmacy can be more than 60 miles away.
“My personal pain point is I had a needed to see a dermatologist for my son,” says Lau, whose son had eczema early in his life.
“Why am I dragging a crying toddler into an office?” she says. The problem could be solved online.
After an initial consultation in this arena of telemedicine, you can arrange virtually for shipping and delivery of prescriptions. Alpha Medical delivers in five states—California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Illinois—but some states outlaw telemedicine, including Arizona. Alpha Medical strictly follows state regulations for online doctor care, as well as prescriptions. All prescriptions are from U.S. pharmaceutical companies and most prescriptions are covered by insurance.
“The reason we are focusing on women’s health is to look at the demographic of 18 to 35, there are a lot of challenges in accessing health care,” Lau says. “Birth control is a common need, and many don’t have primary care physicians. “
In rural America, there may not be a doctor close by. Students on college campuses also may lack access to a doctor. Lau says patients report that before Alpha Medical, they took time off work to go to the doctor, to wait at the pharmacy and to schedule follow-ups.
At Alpha Medical, the team is for women led by women, Lau says, with a female chief medical officer.
With a big mission to alleviate the pain points of access to critical, ongoing health care needs for women 18-35, Lau says she has learned much along the way.
“You have to really always listen to the consumers and patients and focus on their pain points,” Lau says.
To ease the life of a woman no matter where she lives who regularly needs prescription access? That is a big deal, and for everyone involved, a golden opportunity.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com