How Hims & Hers built a business entirely centered on telehealth

Healthcare IT News recently interviewed Hims & Hers Chief Operating Officer Melissa Baird about how the company has built its brand around telehealth but still has its origins in helping people deal with conditions that are uncomfortable to talk about—sexual health, mental health, contraception, and hair loss, for example.

Baird leads a team of engineers who have gone to great lengths to create a telehealth experience that leaves the customer feeling safe and secure and, at the same time, inspiring confidence in the platform and provider.

Telemedicine has always been at the core of Hims & Hers’ business, Baird said.

“It’s the concept that got us off the ground and in front of consumers since the get-go,” she said. “While fleshing out our business prior to launch, we realized consumers are inundated with products advertising support for a healthful lifestyle, but there is little evidence backing most of them. It was then we recognized that we wanted to do something that helped in a real way—providing high-quality digital health services via real, seasoned medical professionals as well as affordable and effective products that are backed by science.”

Hims’ business took off as soon as it launched, so the founder team knew they had touched on something the public really wanted. While the company began treating only two conditions, it required a lot of work on the back end.

“We started from nothing and had to build our own system, platform, and capabilities to be able to provide high-quality telemedicine services that we believed would change the game of accessing healthcare,” Baird said. “In order to facilitate compliant patient/provider connections, we had to incorporate all of the privacy and regulatory components and quality structures to provide telemedicine, which is required whether you’re treating for hair loss or a sinus infection.”

Both mental health and primary care services were part of Hims & Hers’ growth plans, but the pandemic pulled those needs to the top of the stack, and by the spring of 2020, the company had built a platform connecting thousands of patients each day to hundreds of providers, all digitally. Hims & Hers started with primary care in hopes of taking some of the non-COVID-related care burden off in-person primary care providers.

“A large portion of our existing provider network was family practice and trained in general medicine, so they were well-qualified to treat primary care conditions,” Baird said. The roll-out of mental health care was more challenging than primary care, but today, Hims & Hers offers psychiatry in 44 states, therapy services in 32 states, and free online support group sessions led by a mental health or wellness professional.

As for the future of telehealth, it was already gaining popularity pre-pandemic, Baird said. Many people, both patients and providers, tried telehealth for the first time because of COVID-19, and both groups have seen how convenient it is because it lowers cost, lowers patient time commitment, and reduces provider burnout, among other things. All this is a recipe for more and earlier interactions with healthcare providers, which can lead to earlier detection of problems.

“Historically, moments of mass crisis have also proven to be moments of revolution and innovation. The 2008 economic crisis spurred the sharing economy. The Cold War birthed the internet and email. World War II was the first time penicillin was used en masse,” Baird said. “Telehealth—and its benefits—in my opinion, will be one of the greatest innovations of this pandemic, and it will be benefiting us long after we’re explaining what things used to be like to our great-grandchildren.”

Read the full interview with Baird at Healthcare IT News.