True innovation
Working With BCBS, This Startup is Hacking Fertility and Pregnancy Challenges
Kim Lachance Shandrow | November 16, 2016

Welcome to #BizUnited, a new series highlighting innovative partnerships between large corporations and small businesses across America. Check back periodically for new installments.

Before smartphones, tracking fertility often involved a fair amount of guesswork and a few old-school tools, such as printed ovulation charts and calendars, and your basic pen and paper—not to mention plenty of patience. So when career computer scientist and statistician Alex Baron and his wife began thinking about starting a family, he wondered how he could use his skills to simplify this time-consuming process.

Alex Baron, co-founder of Ovia Health, and his family.

Alex Baron, co-founder of Ovia Health, and his family.

“As I was developing the initial algorithm, and testing it, I actually tested it on my family initially and it worked on the first try—my wife got pregnant,” Baron recalls in a blog post.

With that initial success, Ovia Health was born (followed nine months later by Baron’s son, Michael). The company, originally named Ovuline, offers a suite of personalized, algorithm-driven women’s reproductive health apps that help modernize and streamline the fertility- and pregnancy-tracking processes. In a way, the Boston-based technology upstart has essentially figured out how to hack conception.

Sitting on a promising technology and fresh off a $10 million funding round, Ovia Health next needed to find a way to scale its services and reach more users—and Baron and his team found the answer in one of the health insurance industry’s largest and most innovative players: Blue Cross Blue Shield. Ovia Health recently partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) to roll out its newest offering, Ovia Benefits, to the insurer’s many members.

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Through the deal, Ovia Benefits enables BCBSMA’s pregnant and trying-to-conceive members to access exclusive, highly personalized content about their fertility- and pregnancy-related health insurance benefits directly from within Ovia’s apps. These Ovia-facilitated benefits include health coaching, tips for healthy fertility and pregnancy, analytics and dashboard reporting, and clinical health assessments.

On the flip side, the program helps BCBSMA identify participants with high-risk pregnancies who may be good candidates for its maternity management program.

Ovia Health's pregnancy-tracking app.

Ovia Health’s pregnancy-tracking app.

“In general, insurers are really excited about engaging with all of their members, but especially this population,” Baron’s co-founder and Ovuline CEO Paris Wallace told the Boston Business Journal. “Most have fantastic benefits for their pregnant members and those trying to conceive, and sometimes they don’t know the best way to communicate that with their members.”

The ultimate goal of the partnership, Wallace tells Free Enterprise, is to improve BCBSMA members’ and Ovia app users’ overall health outcomes.

“We’re excited because it expands the benefits that we can provide to our users,” he says. “They get accurate information about what BCBSMA insurer benefits they’re eligible for when they are pregnant or trying to conceive, so they can take advantage of their benefits and improve their health.”

Meanwhile, he adds, “BCBSMA gains deeper engagement” with its members.

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In addition to BCBSMA, Ovia Health has partnered with corporations including General Electric, Optum and Activision Blizzard, helping the startup place its services in the palms of more women and families. Driven in large part by those strategic partnerships with larger companies, Ovia’s apps have now helped more than 5,000,000 women through their fertility and pregnancy journeys.

“Fertility is a health sub-market where apps have begun to replace traditional, more expensive interventions because low-cost, highly-scalable consumer apps are working,” Wallace wrote recently. He later added: “Pretty soon, it’ll be time to say goodbye to the waiting room and hello to your smartphone.”