Putting Patients at Ease
How Ms Guadalupe Lazaro (Yale-NUS ’20) is using the Internet to widen access to reproductive and sexual health services.
WHO SHE IS
Ms Guadalupe Lazaro is the co-founder of Ease, a startup that aims to tackle the difficulties in accessing sensitive health services — among them reproductive and sexual health matters. She is a recent graduate of Yale-NUS College, where she was the president of a student group that promotes diversity and inclusivity.
To the casual observer, accessing reproductive and sexual health services in Singapore might seem as easy as seeing a doctor for a flu jab. But Ms Guadalupe Lazaro knows otherwise — since starting her digital health platform Ease, she has heard from countless women about the challenges they face when trying to access services such as birth control and emergency contraceptives. “Some patients were deeply uncomfortable about discussing their sexual health with a male doctor, while others felt judged by clinic staff for seeking birth control options,” shares the 23-year-old. “There’s still a great deal of stigma around reproductive and sexual health.”
Ms Lazaro has experienced this stigma herself — as a young woman trying to access such services, she has had to put up with unsolicited advice about her sexual health, as well as the inconvenience of long queues and waits at clinics. “Situations like these are especially difficult for people who may not be able to get time off from work to visit a clinic, but who desperately need this kind of care,” she reflects. “These experiences may also turn people off from talking about sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and getting tested for them.”
Realising that a digital health platform would be a way of tackling some of these issues, Ms Lazaro decided to start Ease with a business partner last May. The health startup offers discreet and affordable sexual and reproductive services online, allowing its 9,000 users to teleconsult experienced doctors and refill prescriptions — all from the comfort and privacy of their homes. At-home test kits for STIs are also available. Furthermore, costs are kept low as the digital nature of Ease lowers its operating cost. These savings are passed on to users, adds Ms Lazaro. “This way, we put our users at ease and make it easier than ever for them to meet their healthcare needs,” she explains. “And because they’re at ease, we can truly walk this journey with them. From experience, we know that deeply personal matters like STI testing and contraception are best handled when the patient-doctor relationship is built on trust and comfort. These are not transactional matters and should not be handled that way.”
9,100 people have joined Ease’s platform as members since May 2020
These users have enjoyed over 22,000 minutes of teleconsultation with experienced doctors
The service enjoys a 5* rating on Google, making it the highest-rated digital health platform in Singapore
A DREAM COME TRUEBeing a socially-focused entrepreneur has always been an ambition for Ms Lazaro, as The AlumNUS discovered. “I have often thought about businesses that I want to start to solve society’s problems. But I never imagined doing it right after graduation; I always expected my career to start in the non-governmental organisation sector and then possibly the private sector. Only after these stints did I expect myself to start my own venture.” She says that her time in university helped her realise that she had the potential to make a difference to countless other young people in Singapore. “At Yale-NUS, I was the president of a student group that conducted workshops and dialogues on sexual and reproductive health. We were making a difference already and I wanted to continue doing that.”
Judging by Ease’s growth, it has done just that: in under a year, it has grown to hire nine staff members who oversee its business development, product management, marketing, and day-to-day operations. Ms Lazaro knew she was on the right track when she started hearing feedback from Ease’s users. “They were so grateful for the service we are providing and their words of encouragement have kept me motivated.” She adds that reception to Ease has been largely positive and that she has not faced any backlash. “That’s fortunate, given that some of the services we offer can be considered taboo by some.” When asked about her plans for its next stage of growth, Ms Lazaro does not miss a beat. “We want to continue building on our foundations, raise awareness of Ease, and take the user experience to the next level.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERSStarting Ease is the latest milestone in Ms Lazaro’s life, which began in Argentina. She was born and raised in a town two hours outside of Buenos Aires. A trip to the United States when she was 15 seeded in her a desire to study abroad and she began hunting for the ideal university for her. She eventually decided on Yale-NUS after the Experience Yale-NUS Weekend in 2015. “The school had a vibrant scene, and both the faculty and student body were so passionate about what they were doing … it was the perfect match.”
At university, she majored in Anthropology and did a minor in Global Affairs. The experience opened her eyes to the importance of dismantling social constructs. “We were encouraged to rethink concepts that many of us have just taken as fact — that’s actually how the idea for Ease came about: when we started to question what ‘accessible healthcare’ means. After all, on the surface, healthcare is very accessible in Singapore. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find the barriers that Ease is helping to bring down.”
From experience, we know that deeply personal matters like STI testing and contraception are best handled when the patient-doctor relationship is built on trust and comfort. These are not transactional matters and should not be handled that way.
Text by Keenan Pereira. Photo by Kelvin Chia