Destigmatising sexual health in Singapore through the means of telemedicine
Healthcare without the awkwardness.
Going to the doctor’s for a sexual health concern isn’t an easy as it sounds. Things like birth control and emergency contraception might elicit judgemental stares and awkward moments, making the experience unnecessarily stressful for some.
Prodded by this gap in the telemedicine market, longtime friends Ethel Tan and Sean Low were inspired to provide accessible and discreet healthcare to all through the means of online medical evaluations and supplements.
Ethel shares: “Sean actually gave me a call one day, sharing with me about this idea. He’s been a very entrepreneurial kind of person ever since I met him and we’ve been friends for very long already so when he came up to me, sharing with me about this idea with so much passion, I was like, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
They first launched Noah sometime in 2020, during the circuit breaker period. It initially started off as a healthcare brand to treat more sensitive conditions that people were too embarrassed to go see the doctor’s for.
However, they have since expanded to include more holistic conditions such as hair loss, weight loss and smoking cessation.
Patients simply need to complete an online evaluation regarding their health condition, lifestyle habits, symptoms, and medical history. Thereafter, a consultation with a doctor from Noah will be done. Once the prescription is approved, the team delivers the medication to the patient’s doorstep within four hours.
“It’s almost the same time frame as travelling to a clinic and seeing the doctor before you can get the medication,” says the 27-year-old.
Shortly after they introduced Noah to the market, they saw a lot of traction and upon noticing that they’re helping a lot of people. That’s when they decided to set up Zoey to help women.
“We mainly wanted to launch Zoey because I personally have gone through experiences at a doctor’s when I tried to get my own birth control pills so I knew that there was a market for it. We also just wanted to leverage on the capabilities that we had from Noah, for Zoey as well,” she shares.
As with every business, establishing themselves in the market was not an easy process. Being a telemedicine company, legitimacy was an issue as many customers were sceptical and felt that their services were “too good to be true”. Thankfully, with the help of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH’s) telemedicine platform listing, they were able to prove themselves to their customers.
Ethel and her team also work closely with certified doctors and medical advisors to ensure that all prescriptions provided are accurate. Their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are constantly reviewed and updated so everything is safe for their patients.
Apart from legitimacy, another challenge they faced was the influx of patients in the beginning.
As one of their services includes treating emergency contraception, time is of the essence. However, they struggled to cope with the high demand and eventually were unable to meet the delivery time frame of four hours. This was a huge issue which they have since learnt from.
Having experienced great success with both Noah and Zoey, Ethel and her team do have plans to expand overseas. They also have a new line of supplements in the pipeline which will be released in the next couple of months.
Beyond being a company that helps with sexual health concerns, Noah and Zoey also pride themselves as brands that seek to destigmatise taboos related to sexual health. Their marketing team often publishes relatable content across their social media platforms in hopes that it will make their audience feel more comfortable to speak about these issues.
Apart from memes and lighthearted posts, they also create ‘Did you know?’ slides with titbits of information to debunk misconceptions and FAQs they get from patients.
“I think for one, it’s more for educational purposes, right? If you have this kind of conversation, it’ll be a lot easier for girls, especially younger girls to learn from other people’s experiences.
“Google is great, but sometimes information can still be unreliable or not credible,” she said.
Ethel also tapped into her experience with sexuality education classes back in secondary school when teachers would focus on preventing the act rather than discussing sexual health on a more holistic front.
“I think the deep impressions that I had from sexuality education were, number one, condoms are the main form of protection that you should use. Number two, they showed my batch a lot of horrid videos of abortion, you know, how they remove the babies and I feel like it wasn’t as holistic as it should be which is the direction that the educational system should move towards.”
That said, she does see that sexual health is becoming less of a taboo topic in Singapore with the rise of more telemedicine platforms like hers.
She shares: “I believe that it’s not very easy to see that change. But I believe that with everyone’s efforts, as long as each one of us try to have this kind of conversation, over time we’ll be able to normalise these topics in society.”