Aug 30, 2021

Creating Obie: A Holistic, Digital Approach to Fertility

By Nadia Skovorodneva, Associate Creative Director

The decision to start a family (or not) has become a lot more complex and emotional. In our busy life we hardly have enough time for ourselves, let alone having time for a kid. As the cost of living rises, so does the cost of having children. And there are moral considerations, too. We wonder: What kind of world will our kids live in? Is it ethical to bring a child into the world that will soon run out of drinking water and soil?

But even when we’re mentally and financially ready to start a family, getting pregnant right away is not as easy as it seems.

Encouraging education and conversation around fertility

When was the last time you talked to someone you know about fertility? Chances are, most of us would not remember if we had those conversations at all. The reality is, it’s become borderline taboo in our society to speak openly about fertility and pregnancy alike. That’s why Obie (an app we built alongside babyMed) was born — to help democratize information around reproductive health for everyone.

Misinformation or lack thereof follow us at every stage of our life — from adolescence and a lack of education in school to later in life when women begin thinking about the possibility of starting a family.

In fact, many studies show that women are not only undereducated when it comes to topics such as fertility and conception, but they also overestimate their knowledge about the subject. Only half of the women participants in one study who considered their knowledge to be high could answer six out of 16 questions correctly. Lack of access to trusted information is an issue, especially with 1 in 8 couples being affected by infertility in the US.

Understanding the root cause

So how did we get here? And why are topics like fertility, conception and pregnancy discussed behind closed doors, if at all?

Part of the reason is that doctors rarely take the time to go into the nuances around fertility and sex health. Women spend a mere 15 min with an ObGyn a year in the US. This means very few women receive adequate education from doctors to understand their options so they can plan for the future. 

With the lack of conversation, it’s hard for women to feel confident and comfortable talking about their fertility let alone if a couple is going through fertility treatment, such as IVF (which can be impactful, but is expensive and by no means immediate). Many don’t talk about it and feel it’s something they need to go through alone.

Building a new tool for a holistic approach to fertility

Obie is the first-of-its-kind digital product in the fertility space with a hyper-personalized and holistic approach that uses the latest medical science to help women improve their fertility, track their cycle and ovulation, get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. Think of Obie as the guide to the fertility journey.

Like the most transcendent brands today, Obie was started to solve a problem: There was ample frustration with how little time women had with gynecologists and how much misinformation exists on the topic of fertility. Obie, built through deep collaboration between YML and babyMed, makes science-based information accessible to everyone — regardless of their race, beliefs, sexual preference, cultural background or location.

Tapping into babyMed’s expertise

In 2020, babyMed engaged with YML to bring their vision to life: democratizing specialist reproductive care for every woman.

babyMed is one of the world’s top fertility and pregnancy content sites. Since 2000, babyMed has been helping millions of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive get answers to their most burning questions. The site is known for its large collection of scientifically accurate content, interactive tools and quizzes. With a global audience and 10M unique website visitors annually, babyMed saw an opportunity to create a comprehensive solution — one that would not simply track cycles, but would consider all factors that impact a person's reproductive health (mind, body and environment).

Our challenge was to harness babyMed’s audience, content and tools to create a holistic and personalized solution from scratch.

Designing for life’s most important journey

The project began with deep understanding of the problem and opportunities landscape. We then moved to defining the vision for the experience and ended with the launch of the app.

Building a holistic ecosystem

In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of new products and services from start-ups who see a business opportunity in the fertility space. The App Store has no shortage of apps for all types of health concerns — from cycle tracking to sex health and menopause management — but with the increase in new solutions comes increased fragmentation. Most of the solutions on the market are designed in silo and are not taking into consideration factors that impact reproductive health.

The next frontier in health is connected ecosystems. Known for ecosystem loyalty, Apple has been slowly but surely building a powerful health universe by connecting the Health app with fitness trackers, medical providers and other apps. This empowers users with knowledge about their health without having to go to multiple sources, and ultimately leads to higher user retention.

We designed Obie with connectivity in mind from the start. It considers three key areas of reproductive health (mind, body, environment), and the app evolves with the user through different life phases (cycle tracking, pregnancy, postpartum) based on the user’s ongoing engagement. Obie also acts as a search engine allowing users to get answers to their questions without turning to Google. At the foundational level, it synchronizes Apple HealthKit and location data to provide more comprehensive health recommendations. In the future, Obie could ‘talk’ to other health apps and trackers, too, as well as connect with the user’s primary care physician and/or pharmacy.

Tackling privacy and transparency in healthcare

Connected ecosystems are only possible with the exchange of data between the user and the device, third-party apps and medical providers. When it comes to health, how that data is stored, handled and shared is crucial.

In the United States, HIPAA is the federal data law that keeps medical records private — shared only amongst a person's doctors, themselves and maybe a loved one or caregiver. Except that doesn’t apply to all the information collected by the apps. One study identified that 79% of the 24 most popular medication-related Android apps in the Google Play store share user data in ways that may violate your privacy. Furthermore, there were no less than 3,054 healthcare data breaches between 2009 and 2019, resulting in the exposure of more than 200M medical records according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s no surprise that privacy is rapidly shifting from being an afterthought to the backbone of how we design and build digital products today and in the future.

That’s why data privacy is at the core of Obie brand and product. Obie doesn’t sell personal data to third parties or use it to target ads. In addition to the careful handling of data, we integrated the feeling of privacy throughout the entire app experience. When users are asked to share sensitive information, they see the lock icon along with the message assuring them that their data is always protected.

Balancing science and heart

The face of health is evolving. Across the US, new medical spaces like Parsley Health change our perception of what a doctor’s office could look and feel like. At the same time, technology enables us to take care of our health from the comfort of our homes. Take Kaiser Permanente, for example, a healthcare behemoth now making care accessible, convenient and affordable virtually.

In light of this shift, it was important for Obie to have a recognizable and relatable personality. Our challenge was to find a balance between coming across as a trusted medical professional and a relatable friend. The result is an app that feels friendly but not over the top, scientific but not too cold, intelligent but down to earth. In addition, we designed a flexible system that makes it easy for users to understand their health data at a glance and allows the brand to scale in the future.

As a budding brand with aspirations to drive equality and inclusion in reproductive healthcare, Obie has the potential to resolve embedded societal inequities that have affected women for too long. Obie gives women the knowledge they need to proactively engage with their health and understand what’s working and what isn’t — ultimately guiding and empowering women throughout their reproductive health journey.