Startup Spotlight: telemedicine and femtech firm Nurx
Available, the company says, to 90% of the US...
San Francisco, California-based healthcare startup Nurx offers online delivery women’s health services.
Available, the company says, to 90% of the US population, its services include birth control, emergency contraception, STI testing and Herpes treatments. The service works by offering customers the ability to deliver testing and medication to their home, while keeping costs low with or without insurance. Describing itself as the leading online provider for contraception, Nurx says it delivers care to over 250,000 patients across the United States.
A total of $93.4mn has been raised by the company across six funding rounds since its foundation in 2015. In 2019, the firm raised some $52mn in a Series C round led byKleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund and Union Square Ventures.
In a press release at the time, Nurx CEO Varsha Rao said: "The typical healthcare experience is slow, confusing, and expensive and doesn't leave people feeling empowered to make decisions about their health. We're incredibly motivated by the impact we've made over the last few years, particularly in areas of the country where people turn to us because they don't have any options. By focusing our efforts on health needs that often carry shame and stigma, we're excited to reach more people and provide them with more sensitive healthcare services they need and deserve."
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Nurx framed its work on telemedicine as relieving strained healthcare services and enabling less interpersonal contact. Recently, the company has announced its expansion to the state of Maryland, thanks to the State passing legislation that allows “healthcare providers to use their clinical judgment in determining how they can best provide care to their patients in a telemedicine setting”
"We feel privileged to be in the position of providing online medical consultations, home delivery of medication, and transparent and affordable pricing for people with and without health insurance," said Rao. "We're more committed than ever to provide people in Maryland with the compassionate care they need and deserve. We hope other states follow their lead in expanding telemedicine offerings so people can get the care they need safely from home."
Advances in health "must ensure self-sovereign identity"
The UK government has announced that from September onwards COVID-19 vaccine passports will be necessary to gain entry into places with large crowds, such as nightclubs.
This has reignited the debate between those who believe having proof of vaccinations will enable people to gather in public places and travel safely, and those who view the digital certificates as an attack on personal freedom.
The arguments have increased in intensity since the recent announcement to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England, in a move to reopen the economy that has attracted fierce criticism both domestically and overseas.
Cross-party ministers are set to defy the government’s latest plans to introduce vaccine passports over civil liberties concerns. A number of MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.
However Mark Shaw, CEO of Tento Applied Sciences, says the Big Brother Watch campaign is based on false assumptions. “Big Brother Watch puts forward a compelling argument based around civil liberties, but some of the assumptions they make are simply incorrect” he says.
“For example, the BBW campaign claims that all Covid passes are discriminatory, counterproductive and would lead to British citizens having to share personal health information with anyone in authority, from bouncers to bosses. However, there are already privacy-first digital wallets that give individuals the freedom to store and share anonymised medical documents, work credentials and other types of documentation quickly, simply, and securely.
“I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it" Shaw adds. "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority."
The subject of personal health data is under scrutiny in the UK at the moment, following controversial plans for the NHS to share patient data with third parties. These have been put on hold following public criticism.
Meanwhile a new report has found that the majority of the British public is willing to embrace digital healthcare tools such as apps and digital therapies prescribed by a trusted healthcare professional.
Shaw adds: “The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information."