The following is a transcript of an interview by Oriana Kraft with Hannah Allen, Co-Founder and CEO of Tinto –  a platform providing personalised support for women who have babies about her journey to founding Tinto, the gaps in care digital services can fill and why she chose to focus on the maternal health journey.

Could you introduce yourself briefly & your background?

I’m Hannah, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Tinto, the platform that provides personalised support for women who have babies.

I am a GP by background, specialising in women’s health. This is where I saw first-hand the challenges women face – physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally – during the transition to motherhood, and the fire in my belly to do something about it really started.

I became intensely interested in what was being done to solve the problems in healthcare, which led me to Babylon Health, who were pioneering some incredible technology specifically aimed at improving primary care. I joined Babylon scientists and engineers to provide a frontline clinical viewpoint, which is so important in the development of these technologies.

After being at Babylon for several years, and two children later, the feelings that I needed to do more for women and mothers became overwhelming. Joining forces with former lawyer Idia Elsmore Dodsworth, I began to build Tinto and am on a mission to make sure that every woman is able to thrive in motherhood.

What is the story behind Tinto? What was the need you identified? Why did you feel that now was the time to take action? What made you feel that innovation is possible now?

In my nine years as a GP, I worked in obstetrics, gynaecology, urogynaecology, contraception clinics, and perinatal mental health, it became clear to me that innovation in the women’s health space was needed.

Pregnant or postnatal women would come in to see me, and I’d have eight or nine minutes to fix their problems. I would always run over the allotted time, desperately trying to cover all bases or root out what the real issue even was. I knew that women were not thriving in this environment and that the transactional, inaccessible healthcare model exacerbated this.

Whatever I did, I always went home feeling like I hadn’t done enough for these women. I now know I wasn’t alone. Since then, we’ve surveyed a number of surgeries in London and have found that around 85% of primary care doctors do not feel confident managing common postnatal health issues, including pelvic floor and breastfeeding concerns.

However much I tried, it was so hard to make a real impact. Yet we need impactful care so desperately. Devastatingly, suicide is the leading cause of direct death of new mothers. 350,000 women miss their postnatal appointments every year in the UK, despite the fact that 94% of women experience a morbidity after giving birth, such as urinary incontinence or split nipples.

As I investigated what could be done, it became apparent that although the technology was starting to develop and digital healthcare solutions were taking off, men’s health and wellbeing was the priority. The innovation was happening, just not for women’s health. That’s when I realised it was time for Tinto.

How has the way the current medical landscape is structured shaped what you are aiming to do with Tinto 

We tend to think about women’s health and women’s wellbeing as two different things. But it’s just not the case. However much healthcare tries to just deal with health rather than wellbeing, it’s impossible to separate the two that neatly.

Working in the NHS, I spent countless appointments with women discussing decisively subclinical wellbeing challenges. These women had clearly tried wading through generic advice online and had resorted to coming in to see their GP because they just weren’t sure whose advice to trust. In fact, 42% of new parents say their first port of call for information is Dr Google, which – given you need a forensic lens to find advice that’s reliable and personalised to your situation – is pretty concerning.

What we’re starting to understand is that health and wellbeing challenges are on a spectrum, and that these lines are particularly blurry for pregnant women and new mothers. We are recognising the complexities and the interdependencies of health and wellbeing, and the balancing act that both play. But the current medical landscape, however much it tries, just does not have capacity to recognise wellbeing in the way it needs to. Healthcare reacts to crises.

But, using innovative technology, we can shift our attention to the subclinical wellbeing space in order to prevent costly and debilitating healthcare conditions in the future. I really believe that by supporting people better in the community, by listening to and validating early concerns, and by educating people about their health and wellbeing, we can move away from a sick care model to a prophylactic model.

If you had to pick one barrier as being the largest one to impede innovation/conversations around women’s health what would you say it was?

It’s not that the technology isn’t being developed to really create change in healthcare. In fact, it was reported that we have seen 3 years of innovation in the last 6 months within the UK healthcare landscape. The issue is that the investment is not being pushed towards women’s health specifically. The reasons for this are endlessly frustrating, from a lack of diversity within venture capital to claims that women’s health, despite affecting over 50% of the population, is a bit too ‘niche’.

What have some of Tinto’s largest challenges been?

Other than launching a start-up during a global pandemic? Ha! No, in all honesty, the most challenging part has probably been trying to find some kind of work-life balance. My Co-Founder Idia and I both have two children under seven and throughout the pandemic I was also working in the local Covid hub. I was very stretched, and that has been challenging.

Other than that, recruiting talent has been slower than we’d hoped. Although we hire very precisely and carefully, I think the worst thing you can do is attempt to hire too fast. However, the market over the past 12 months has been crazy, particularly for early stage companies that struggle to compete with really big payers. The market has shifted completely, which has had a knock-on effect on pre-seed and seed stage companies.

How do you see Tinto fitting into the FemTech landscape? How do you see Tinto being able to personalize women’s healthcare experience?

There’s certainly a lot of interest in the pregnant and postnatal stage at the moment, which makes the market feel crowded. But we know that the majority of mothers are still not seeking help when they need it and not finding the support that’s right for them when they do, so it’s also clear that the market need is not being met in the right way.

I think what’s missing is that combination of community-based support and actionable, expert advice in a way that’s truly tailored to each individual. Personalisation is the holy grail from a consumer perspective. It’s how we make sure that we cut through all the other noise for our mums and get them that high quality support without the high cognitive load.

What we’re doing differently at Tinto is developing rich R+D at the core of our product. This R+D provides deep insights into each woman’s needs. In GP land, we call this your ‘hidden agenda’, which means we can understand and better cater for the deep biopsychosocial needs of our users.

The other factor that all too often is missing is a focus on outcome. Because when it comes down to it, nothing matters apart from improving outcomes. At Tinto, we’re laser focused on improving women’s wellbeing and, in time, health outcomes. By working closely with clinicians and healthcare professionals as well as the systems and providers that need the consumer data to enhance their patient-facing service, we can move towards digital phenotyping, which is so important to the future health of all of us.

Do you envision collaborating with any other FemTech companies in the future?

We would love to work with anyone who shares our mission of supporting women to thrive in motherhood but also any other stage of life. I really believe that the more femtech companies support and elevate one another, the better the entire landscape will be.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve gained so many amazing female supporters along the way, and am always looking to grow my network in the femtech space and work closely with some big players, both in the UK and the US. I personally think Kate Ryder at Maven has done a brilliant job paving the way for other female founders to work together and innovate in the women’s health space. I would love to work with Maven in the future.

Are you looking to form any specific partnerships?

Yes absolutely, we would love to connect with companies looking to support women in their motherhood journeys in the workplace. This is still such an enormous issue unfortunately, and there’s lots of work to be done. We would also love to talk to any like-minded brands who share our passion for improving the lives of women around the world.

Want to learn more about innovations in maternal health, the future of care, how taking a clinical/ medical perspective/ approach to innovating healthcare can help identify true gaps in the market / where both the patient and doctors needs are not being met? Sign up for the 2022 femtech conference here June 1 + 2 Virtual and free!

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