Updated: Nov 4, 2021
As the world moves towards virtual healthcare, Zoie Health Technologies has launched South Africa’s first digital women’s health and wellness clinic – created by women, for women, with a unique understanding of women’s health issues.
The Zoie Health offering has been thoughtfully designed to take an integrated holistic view of women’s health and wellness, based around a community of women who support each other through the key stages of life.
Services available on the online platform include virtual consultations with medical providers, group consultations, and community forums, where users can interact with each other or get advice from health experts.
Users will also be able to book a home consultation with a medical specialist, arrange a baby wellness check in the comfort of their own homes, and order their contraception and other medication, as well as test kits for pregnancy, ovulation, STDs and HIV, for home delivery.
Zoie Health founders, Thato Schermer and Dr Nonhlanhla Sitole, explain that the idea for the platform was inspired by both personal and professional experience. In Thato’s case, it was a visit to the OBGYN that sparked her awareness of how cost, combined with lack of access, creates challenges for women.
“I was shocked at the cost of a consult simply to get contraception – something which is essential for women of reproductive age, but which remains out of reach to many because the process required to get a prescription is so expensive,” she says.
For Dr Nonie, meanwhile, the prompt came after the birth of her second child, when a period of post-partum depression led her to realise just how misunderstood and taboo this condition remains – and how a sense of community for women experiencing it is sorely needed.
The duo decided to pool their knowledge, with Thato drawing on her years of experience in business development, technology and strategy across several of South Africa’s major healthcare companies and technology companies, and Nonie applying the insights she obtained while studying towards a PhD in genetics and molecular biology, with a special focus on cervical cancer.
“We realised that although there is a lot of innovation in the medical space, there was no one focusing on one key customer: women,” Thato notes. “And, while we knew a move to ‘telemedicine’ and ‘digital health’ was a move the world was making, Covid-19 has certainly sped up the need for remote health support.”
A Trend Towards Digital
Zoie Health speaks directly to this growing trend towards virtual digital healthcare: “The idea was to make everything accessible online, from virtual consults to requesting medication. Our goal is to make the entire process seamless, from finding a provider to getting your meds delivered to your home. By making everything tech-based, we are able to simplify, integrate and streamline access to healthcare services”.
She and Nonie therefore made sure that each aspect of Zoie speaks to this point, while addressing every health episode in a woman’s life, from puberty to pregnancy, all the way through to menopause.
Thus, users can go online to get support around fertility issues, ask for advice about breastfeeding, organise a baby wellness check in the comfort of their own home, ask other mothers how they are dealing with specific challenges and find out about post-pregnancy fitness. Just as you would visit a clinic for an entire range of health issues, so Zoie functions as a one-stop service for almost every aspect of women’s health and wellness.
“Women are juggling so many roles these days, and as a result, their own health and wellness needs often fall by the wayside. As work and personal pressures mount, taking the time to book an appointment, drive to a doctor or clinic and wait for a late appointment, all while worrying about a million other tasks, means women do not give themselves the time nor permission to the address their own health needs proactively.”
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
To provide expert assistance and informative content, Thato and Nonie partnered with a team of independent specialists, from doulas to lactation consultants. The advantage of this innovative model, points out Nonie, is that it empowers the service providers, too, giving them a platform to provide quicker and better service to clients as they increasingly seek online solutions.
The result is a safe space for women; one where they can access all the care they need, in a manner that is both affordable and accessible. We want women to know that their health issues are important, because we shouldn’t have to whisper about what we’re going through. Women are the backbone of the economy, so it shouldn’t be a struggle to find affordable, integrated health and wellness services delivered with care,” Thato concludes.
Author: Nthabiseng Mashashane