Hyivy (pronounced “Hi-Ivy”) is a FemTech start-up based in the Waterloo-Kitchener area. Hyivy Health is currently developing a single platform for clinicians including pelvic health physiotherapists and gynecological health providers including remote patient monitoring combined with the first ever smart and multi-therapeutic vaginal wand.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a graduate of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program at the University of Waterloo. After graduation, I became an entrepreneurial advisor to over 250 formation stage businesses. I’ve worked as a lecturer in entrepreneurship for quantum computing, an Analyst for a venture capital firm, an Innovation Manager at a large Canadian Financial Institution, and helped restart Laurier University’s startup incubator program.
I’ve been in the startup community for the past 10 years working in various roles in small businesses, venture capital, innovation labs, and ecosystem partnerships. Hyivy Health is my second start-up, my first being an automotive e-commerce software, where I worked with large corporate clients, such as eBay and Canadian Tire.
I’m passionate about women’s health, patient advocacy and the FemTech industry. I founded, and serve on the Advisory Council for FemTech Canada, which exists under the mandate of inspiring FemTech entrepreneurs to lead the way in women’s health innovation as well as connecting Canadian FemTech companies with resources and recognition.
I’m the host of the White Coat Warrior podcast which serves as a platform for sharing the stories of patients who have challenged the healthcare system in the face of being ignored, maligned, or dismissed. Since launching in 2021, the first season of the podcast has had 10K+ downloads, and we’re looking forward to recording the second season this summer.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Well hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?! As an entrepreneur, the whole process of creating a company and a solution is through trial and error, so I think I would avoid specific advice on small things or setbacks because those are things that really make you who you are.
I suppose my biggest advice would be to trust my gut. My instinct for this company since the very beginning is to help solve what I think is an ongoing crisis in women’s health, and big problems require big solutions.
What problem does your business solve?
1-in-3 women will experience pelvic health issues in their lifetime. That’s over 300 million women globally. Complications from various conditions can cause the pelvic floor to become too tight and lead to pelvic pain, painful sex, bleeding and inflammation, and injury which causes a direct impact on the quality of life for these women, and Hyivy Health believes women deserve better.
And what does better mean? Hyivy takes a three-prong approach to innovating women’s pelvic health.
Firstly, we’ve updated the static vaginal dilator which hasn’t been updated for almost one hundred years. The Floora™ vaginal wand provides thermal therapy, auto dilation, which connects directly with the patient app and clinician software. Patients will be able conduct their therapy treatment from the comfort of their own home where they can be monitored by, and be connected with their clinician in real-time.
Secondly, our Clinician Software allows the provider to track their patient’s history, conditions, and treatment over an extended period, improve their patient’s adherence and retention, and connect directly with their patients remotely.
Thirdly, Hyivy Health is working to establish the first ever comprehensive dataset on the pelvic floor to enable patients and clinicians to better treat pelvic pain and illness. Our clinical trial and regulatory partners include: Women’s College Hospital, McMaster University and Grand River Cancer Centre and counting!
What is the inspiration behind your business?
When I was 28 years old, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. While I was on bed rest after my hysterectomy and lymphadenectomy, I turned to an online support group of over 15,000 women. I started to notice a trend in the stories I was hearing about the “brown paper bag” that was handed to two women after receiving radiation in the pelvic area. This “bag” I knew too well, it was a hard plastic dilator with a small packet of lube with no instructions and a kind of “good luck”.
I took a survey and found that the number one issue these women were dealing with was aftercare in pelvic health after treatment. Many were facing vaginal stenosis where scar tissue builds up in the vaginal canal and it shortens, tightens and can even fully close up, making it impossible to have an exam by your doctor.
As I continued to research pelvic health, I found out that many of the symptoms and complications I was going to experience from my cancer were similar among many diseases, such as endometriosis and PCOS, as well as the physical changes a woman experiences such as postpartum, gender affirmation surgery, and menopause. As I started radiation treatments, I used my time at the hospital to pitch the solution to doctors in the cancer ward who gave me the clinical validation to start building a business, team, and solution to solve these problems.
Through our primary research interviewing women, we have found that not only are the current treatments uncomfortable, invasive, and often anxiety-producing, but they are also painful and not optimized for a patient’s specific needs. This has led to women giving up altogether on seeking treatment, over-spending to find relief, and potentially going to extreme measures.
These pelvic issues impact women’s quality of life at every stage. We’re talking about missing work, time with children, divorce and intimate relationship issues, and ability to live pain free.
When I first sketched out the idea for Hyivy it was just the device to offer treatment, but then we started to think bigger and realized that the pelvic health system, in many ways, is broken. These problems are a compound on top of the experiences they are already facing daily with incontinence, chronic pain, fatigue, and other symptoms which affect their ability to participate in work, family life, and their intimate relationships.
That’s why we’re creating an entire system with the goal of enabling clinicians like pelvic health physiotherapists to provide more effective treatment to more patients, with more data, and better tools.
What is your magic sauce?
Well, firstly, Hyivy isn’t just taking the current dilators or solutions and adding one additional feature to it and selling direct to customers without clinical trials and FDA approval.
We made the decision for Floora™ to be a medical device and all the procedures and approvals that will come with it because we want to raise the bar on women’s pelvic health.
We’re also the only pelvic health company looking to improve pelvic health for the clinicians who provide it. We don’t want to just create another expensive device that just sits in a patient’s drawer at home with the healthcare provider having no way of knowing if it’s helping or being able to identify what issues their patient might be having.
Through our research we’ve found that in the treatment existing model, 62% of women still report symptoms after treatment, 87% of women feeling like they don’t know why they are doing the treatment or how to do it properly, and 76% of patients falling off from their regular treatment plans due to lack of motivation, hands-on guidance, and support.
Our Clinician Software and patient app is a critical piece of the puzzle to improving these statistics because it gives both the clinician and the patient access to both their subjective and objective pelvic health in real-time, offers guidance and motivation for the patient at home, and allows for telemedical and digital health solutions.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We currently have an R&D pipeline of products that began this year, but what I am really excited about is the ability to leverage our data for the greater good. We want to use the data correlations and patterns seen in our clinical trials to start measuring things that have never been measured before. We also want to help further advance research by collaborating with researching partners who can use our data to understand women’s health further.
While our device goes through trials, we are also currently recruiting both patients and clinicians for focus groups and product testing to ensure we are creating an effective, patient first, clinician-friendly pelvic health rehabilitation system and we welcome anyone interested to visit our website hyivy.com.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Overall, the medical industry has been relatively easy to learn over time, but the awareness and understanding of pelvic health have been the biggest challenge.
When we first assembled our team of engineers, scientists, and medical advisors to scope out the existing technology in this space, we realized baseline data on basic female gynecological health is missing – let alone data points for the population dealing with specific complications. This forced us to take a step back as a company and begin user testing with a small group of women representing each area of pelvic health complications to gather our own baseline data.
The data we collected covered the span of information on the shape and size of different vaginal canals, to what is the basic composition of the fluids our body produces and their function. When gathering this primary data we reached as far as Australia at the University of Queensland in our mission to find the most recent research, our team realized that many of the solutions and research studies that have been developed in the area of pelvic health have been very isolated and siloed into groups focusing on treating and understanding one symptom or function – not a holistic approach. We realized that if someone was going to lead the charge on this, it was going to have to be us.
Another aspect to this lack of awareness is when people think of pelvic health all too often what comes to mind is postpartum and kegels. Although there are very real issues with a pelvic floor that needs kegel training, for whatever reason it’s getting the lion share of the attention and understanding. We’re often confused with other products and solutions that are labelled as our “competitors” but we’re not actually working to solve the same problem.
How can people get involved?
We are currently looking for pelvic health clinicians and patients to participate in our focus groups in order to ensure we’re creating the most effective solutions possible. We’re offering payment in the form of gift cards, future discount on products and early access. You can learn more and sign up at www.hyivy.com or reach out directly to us at [email protected]
We are also always looking for investors, business partners, researchers and anyone interested in the space to collaborate further.