Why I launched a business to provide virtual migraine treatment

My name is Dr. Risa Ravitz, and I am a migraine sufferer, headache and migraine specialist, and health tech business founder — in no particular order. I have suffered from debilitating migraines my whole life, with the lack of answers I received growing up leading me to follow a path into neurology. I then became a specialist in treating patients who suffer just like I do, both online and in a brick-and-mortar practice.

Suffering with migraines gives me a unique approach

Suffering with the condition that I treat means I am a lot more empathetic to the patients’ condition. I understand the struggles that often prevent them from religiously following the lifestyle advice of their physicians, such as doing light exercise and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

It also means that I understand and recognize the symptoms that might not immediately be associated with migraines, such as vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and simply not feeling “100%.”

This extra level of empathy that I have with migraine sufferers heavily contributed towards my decision to launch my own telemedicine migraine treatment business. When people hear the term “telemedicine,” they often imagine a medical professional simply on the other end of the phone. In reality, telemedicine for migraine and headache treatment is much more than that.

Why telemedicine for migraine?

Telemedicine in 2019 is more than a simple phone consultation, especially for sufferers of headaches and migraines. By offering a one-on-one video chat with patients, I am able to engage in thorough and focused conversations during which I understand their medical history, symptoms, and lifestyle habits. This information can be obtained from the patient while they are in the comfort of their own home.

Migraine patients are often in so much pain that they travel to be seen at the emergency room, whose germ-filled waiting rooms generally have glaring lights – a headache patient’s worst nightmare that I’ve been through myself.

And it’s no secret that wait times to get seen by a healthcare professional are far from speedy, with patients often only getting five minutes face-to-face with a doctor after going to the ER, only then to wait weeks to see the specialist they have been referred to.

This means a crucial part of care – listening – is neglected, as well as explaining, reassuring, educating, and empathizing. All due to the time constraints of traditional care.

I launched my company as a way to fill the holes of today’s healthcare system in the U.S. With telemedicine, patients can speak to a doctor on their terms, outside of working hours and from the comfort of their homes. And for those that doubt the quality and promise of telemedicine for migraine, there was shown to be no difference in outcomes between in-person and telemedicine care in this 2017 study by the American Academy of Neurology.

However, as a woman founder in a space dominated by male leaders – health tech – launching my business was never going to be an easy ride.

Taking the female founder path into health tech

When I started my own headache and migraine treatment practice, I knew I wanted to go further in helping those suffering with the condition, but I didn’t expect to experience the “glass ceiling” in health tech leadership quite as much as I did. I felt like men were dominating top roles in the field and the status quo was being withheld.

So, unsurprisingly, when I look back at my journey to becoming a health tech business founder, I wonder how much faster I would have moved had I not been a woman. I was even denied a small business loan despite having a great credit record — I can’t help but think if being a woman business founder had something to do with it.

But when you look at the stats, it’s easy to believe. Despite making up over 70% of the healthcare workforce globally, women remain significantly under-represented at the leadership level: 30% of C-level positions in healthcare are held by women, just 13% of CEOs are women, and only 9% of health tech businesses are founded by women.

These reasons for under-representation in leadership roles in the field bear resemblance to other challenges we see across the board in tech. It’s harder for women to achieve the same level of trust as men easily gain as they dominate the leadership positions: Only 9.7% of investor funding goes to health tech startups founded by women. Women are less likely to self-promote and speak up, they have a smaller professional network, and of course, women are often seen as having less potential for productivity as they are deemed more likely to leave their career to have a family than their male counterparts.

But by no means does that mean it’s impossible. My business is up and running, and I regularly  treat migraine patients virtually, providing care and relief that they had been struggling to access through traditional avenues. If you have a great idea that you believe in, it’s worth fighting for — no matter how solid the glass ceiling might seem.

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