Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Flo app warns women of PCOS symptoms

Steve Rogerson
September 4, 2019

As September is PCOS Awareness Month, California-based female health app company Flo will provide its polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) self-assessment tool on-demand to all Flo users to help women discover if they have PCOS, and bring peace of mind to others who may suspect they have it.
PCOS is a health condition that impacts approximately one in ten women of childbearing age and is the cause of 80% of anovulatory infertility cases, but it remains difficult to diagnose and is often under-diagnosed. The digital self-assessment tool, with a chatbot, interacts with women who have logged their period for at least six successive months.
Flo's algorithm detects a combination of symptoms that could indicate an increased risk of PCOS. Based on the results, it invites users to interact with the Health Assistant. If an increased risk is detected, it urges Flo users to visit their doctor. Finally, if users then indicate that their doctor diagnosed them with PCOS, Flo supports users with follow-up information to help them manage the situation.
"Flo has a clearly defined thought process and futuristic approach to sharing knowledge, and knowledge is power," said Tahir Mahmood, chair of the Standards of Care & Position statements group for European Board and College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. "Flo's interactive approach to assessing data prospectively can help to advise women on what they should be doing to better control their fertility, as well as certain medical conditions. Flo Health Assistant is user-friendly and I'm very pleased to be part of the development process, which is helping share women's health knowledge for everyday use. All women can benefit from it."
Through September only, PCOS Health Assistant is available for all Flo users in the Health Insights section of the app.
PCOS Health Assistant has interacted with more than a quarter of a million women whose health characteristics may indicate PCOS. More than 9000 women who actively followed up on the Flo Health Assistant dialogue subsequently visited their doctors, and nearly 1500 out of them were diagnosed with PCOS.
In addition, more than 1400 women out of 9000 were diagnosed with other conditions, such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts and thyroid disorders by their doctors.
"I was surprised when Flo recommended that I talk to my doctor about PCOS," said Emily, 33. "It had never crossed my mind, but it was the missing puzzle piece that made all my symptoms make so much sense."
In addition, more than six out of ten of 4000 US Flo users polled separately also believe that there was not enough information available about PCOS, and a massive 83% said that they were open to sharing their period data with apps to see if they had an increased risk for certain medical conditions, such as PCOS.
"PCOS is a health issue that is often undiagnosed and misunderstood," said vice president of product Kamila Staryga. "Irregularities in our cycles are absolutely clinically normal, so learning which deviations are a signal of something that needs to be verified with a doctor is truly empowering. We are proud to use technology to help nearly 1500 women to date, and even more in the future, self-assess their health from a PCOS perspective, and with more women's health conditions in the future. PCOS Health Assistant is the first step in Flo's digital self-assessment roadmap, with heavy menstrual bleeding and endometriosis coming, to provide women with more knowledge that will allow them to take better control of their health and make informed decisions to improve their quality of life."
Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that can be associated with metabolic problems, and may affect their overall health and appearance. Symptoms can include irregular periods, excessive hair growth and acne, and can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnoea and strokes, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). With a diagnosis, women can better manage the disease and symptoms with their doctor.
The Flo period tracker is available in more than 20 languages on iOS and Android.