The internet is an information superhighway, making vast amounts of knowledge readily available to us with just a click on our devices. Despite this, sexual wellness still seems to be a subject associated with stuffy stigmas and countless side-eyes from others. Purchasing contraceptives or seeking consultations regarding family planning are typically inconvenient, pricey and lacking in privacy. It is indeed overwhelming when we discover the impact of an issue that we hardly even talk about.
The well-known adage ‘health is wealth’ testifies the importance of healthcare services, but we tend to forget that this umbrella term includes more than just prescribing medication to cure illnesses. Staying on top of your sexual health is just as important as taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing. Ease Healthcare is at the forefront of the sexual and reproductive health services in Singapore, and they strive to make these facilities easy and accessible for everyone.
We caught up with founders Guadalupe Lazaro and Rio Hoe as they shared insights on their business, how it empowers women and how they endeavour to be an all-encompassing platform for sensitive healthcare needs across the region.
1) Can you tell us more about Ease Healthcare?
Ease Healthcare is a digital health start-up, focused on making access to sexual and reproductive healthcare more convenient, affordable and discreet. We currently offer prescription and delivery of birth control and emergency contraception, as well as sexual health teleconsultations.
2) What was the inspiration behind your brand and how did your products come about?
The idea was inspired by our own experiences of facing stigma or barriers when trying to access sexual and reproductive health services in Singapore – from uncomfortable encounters at the clinic, like feeling judged and receiving unwanted advice – to hours spent queuing up just to get a birth control refill. These experiences made us realise the significant barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services in Singapore and in Asia that exist due to prevailing cultural norms and an existing infrastructure which still relies on face to face consultations at clinics. As a result, people often do not get the help they need due to the stigma, time and cost involved.
3) Why is sexual wellness a relatively taboo topic in Singapore?
The term “sexual wellness” has a negative connotation due to cultural norms that look down upon being sexually active and a lack of knowledge regarding what the term constitutes. People are unaware, for instance, that a big part of sexual wellness is being on top of our sexual health, communicating effectively with a partner, and making informed decisions.
Many people are not able to take care of their sexual health and wellness due to the fear of being judged or due to the fact that there are very few support networks in Singapore that can guide them through that journey. Beyond being a digital health provider, a big part of our mission is to de-stigmatise these sensitive issues and create a safe space for people to ask questions and get the help they need. It’s imperative that we start the conversation on sexual health needs as it helps people feel in control of their bodies, wellness, health and decisions.
4) How does Ease contribute in lowering the access barrier to reproductive health services and products?
There are 3 key barriers to accessing reproductive health services: stigma, inconvenience, and high cost. We noticed that with technology, we could break down these barriers and revolutionise the ways in which these healthcare services are provided, such that users can conveniently, affordably and discreetly access these services from the comfort of their home.
5) As Ease is a tele-medical service, how do you build confidence in your customers and assure them that their medication comes from a reliable source?
Building confidence with our customers was one of the key challenges we had to overcome early on, especially among customers who use telemedicine for the first time. Their concerns include making sure that the prescription they obtain is from a real doctor and that their medication comes from a reliable source. To address these concerns, all customers are provided with the name and medical license details of the doctor attending to them once they book an appointment on our platform and all our medication contains the label of the retail pharmacy from which it was dispensed.
6) How do women feel empowered with the services provided by Ease?
With our services, support networks and educational materials we’re helping women take control of their sexual and reproductive health needs, make informed decisions, learn more about their health, body and wellness, and overall feel positive about practicing self-care.
7) Education is key in spreading awareness, especially where social customs around sexual wellness have yet to be widely accepted. Now that Ease has been in the market for some time, are Singaporeans more understanding and receptive to the idea that reproductive healthcare services are indeed essential?
Absolutely. We are honestly very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive feedback and support we’ve received since Ease started. People are openly raising awareness about our mission on social media, initiating conversations with their friends about sexual health, and spreading the word about our services. I think young Singaporeans in particular, understand that it is absolutely fine to take care of your sexual health and they are putting a lot of effort into de-stigmatising the subject. Ease has a huge potential to impact the ways in which we conceptualise and frame these topics and start conversations and we’re excited that people are supportive of this mission.
8) How can we enlighten more people that sexual wellness is merely a part and parcel of life, and that it should not be a conversation topic that is shunned?
I think dialogue is extremely important. When you hear people close to you or people you look up to, talking openly about these topics, you start naturalising them and carrying on those conversations to other circles. To start this dialogue, I always encourage people to share their experiences, ask questions, and listen to others who might be in need of support.
9) What is the future of Ease?
In the short-term, we plan to launch new services within the sensitive healthcare space. In the long term, we plan to diversify our range of product offerings to appeal to all genders and expand to different markets in Asia. Our vision is to become the one-stop platform for a wide range of sensitive healthcare needs across the region.