Imagine what it’s like to suffer from chronic pain that impacts your health, mental well-being, job performance, and relationships. Most of us would go to our physician to develop a plan of attack—perhaps medications or physical therapy or an MRI for further information.
Now imagine that there’s no truly accurate test to see what’s going on with your body—assuming a doctor believes you in the first place. This is the kind of healthcare scenario millions of women face every day when dealing with the effects of endometriosis. In the US alone, there are at least 6.5 million women suffering with this condition, and chronic pelvic pain is just one of the many symptoms a woman might experience. The only way to officially diagnose endometriosis is through a costly laparoscopy, and most OB-GYNs don’t even perform them. Millions of women are suffering with pain, fatigue and infertility while many healthcare professionals lack the expertise and tools to help.
So Heather Bowerman decided to found DotLab and innovate its first product, DotEndo, the first non-invasive test for endometriosis. An affordable diagnostic for this common and often debilitating condition could change the game for women’s healthcare.
— DotLab (@hellodotlab) September 18, 2018
Her background in engineering, biotech investing, machine learning and policy make her uniquely qualified to tackle this elusive health challenge. Bowerman has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs and a Top 35 Global Innovator by the MIT Technology Review.
I sat down with Bowerman at the Health 2.0 conference to hear more about DotEndo, which launches this fall, and her vision for female leadership in healthcare.
Companies don’t often share the origins of their names on websites. I love your naming story—can you talk about how you became DotLab, and how your naming strategy drives future innovations and the overall brand experience?
I love talking about the name of DotLab. There’s a dual meaning behind our name. The first references a fabulous Nobel Prize-winning female scientist named Dorothy Hodgkin. When she won, the headline that ran around the world was “Housewife Wins Nobel Prize.” She was a scientist! I heard that she went by “Dot” or “Dottie,” and I just love that story. It really reminds us that we’re ultimately working toward quality healthcare for women.
The second meaning has to do with the ubiquitous nature of “dot-com” language. It’s one of the most recognizable elements of the internet and aligns with our mission to move women’s health into the future and pave the way for seamless access to critical women’s health diagnostics and data. From a product-naming strategy standpoint, our first product, DotEndo, which is an endometriosis test. Subsequent products will follow the DotX format.
Why start with endometriosis? And why is precision medicine a good fit for this condition?
Endometriosis affects one in 10 women worldwide. Despite its prevalence, many women endure years of pain before learning that they actually have the disease. It manifests in two main ways: infertility and/or pelvic pain. Unfortunately, if you go into a doctor’s office today and mention concerns about either of these things, endometriosis is not on the checklist of things the physician will investigate—at least not right away.
Why? Because other than an expensive surgical procedure, there’s no great diagnostic technology for endometriosis. And many payers don’t cover the surgical procedure unless you’re experiencing acute pelvic pain or have a long history of claims. My team is so inspired to get up every day and work on this problem.
When you launch this fall, what audiences will you zero in on first?
We’re speaking to two main audiences: physicians and patients. The product, DotEndo, is physician-ordered, so you could argue that physicians are our primary audience because it’s essential that they understand what our test does, how it works, how to procure it and how to interpret the results.
But what’s interesting about women’s health, and particularly this disease, is that patients are incredibly engaged, mobilized and aware these days. The patient community around the conversation about endometriosis is amazing, and so for us, patients are an incredibly important audience.
— DotLab (@hellodotlab) October 8, 2018
Can you share where DotLab will innovate next—or how you hope to expand?
We recently put out a press release announcing a monitoring study. Collecting data at multiple time points is interesting over the course of a patient’s care journey. There is a 50% endometriosis recurrence rate even after treatment—a powerful piece of evidence that speaks to the importance of monitoring.
Why Improving Women’s #Health is Important to Healthcare Outcomes with @HeatherBowerman, CEO and Founder at @hellodotlab in the @OutcomesRocket #Healthcare #Podcast – https://t.co/NQQsiaiw13 pic.twitter.com/bH5Fe4eTN4
— Saul Marquez (@OutcomesRocket) October 2, 2018
Congratulations on being named a Top 100 women-owned business this year. Why do you think female leadership—especially in medicine—is crucial, and what are some of the challenges to getting more women leading the charge?
I think that we all want to fund, research and spend our professional lives working on problems we deeply understand and relate to. As entrepreneurs, we build based on that. We also need more diversity on the investment side so we can continue to see spikes in technologies and companies that serve a variety of groups making it to market.
Another area that comes to mind is the challenge of how women’s health conditions present, and how that links back to the need for female leadership. Studies show that women with endometriosis see a median of five MDs over 10 years before receiving a diagnosis—unfortunately, pelvic pain is not always taken seriously. The more diversity that we see at the leadership level across stakeholder types, the more that we’ll see a variety of health issues getting the attention—and solutions—that they deserve.
Get more insights in our Q&A series.