health

From endometriosis to ovarian cancer: The new service that's changing the game for women's health.

HealthMatch
Thanks to our brand partner, HealthMatch

As a sufferer of anxiety and depression, I'm always keen to keep up-to-date with new treatment options. Whether its medications, therapy or other lifestyle interventions, I want to know what's on the cutting edge of medical research.  

By exploring what's available for managing my own mental health, I've come to understand how treatments are developed more broadly for all kinds of health conditions. That is, via clinical trials - research studies that assign individuals or groups to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes.  

That's why I'm so interested in the work of medical startup HealthMatch, which is acting as a game-changer for health in general, but particularly in women’s health. HealthMatch works as a matchmaker between people and clinical trials to allow them to be a part of developing much-needed treatments for conditions from anxiety to endometriosis to COVID-19. 

Founder and CEO Manuri Gunawardena spoke to Mamamia about HealthMatch, how it works, its incredible benefits for women’s health and the heartbreaking story of why she pressed pause on her studies in medicine to create the platform.

CEO Manuri Gunawardena spoke to Mamamia about HealthMatch. Image: HealthMatch. 

“In my final years of medical school, I worked in neuro-oncology research particularly focused on glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumours, an incurable and aggressive form of brain cancer.

"At the lab I came to learn of two young people, both in their thirties with the same diagnosis - a young man and woman, in the prime of their lives.

"The woman’s father was a doctor and could effectively navigate the medical system. He worked tirelessly to get her onto a trial. She’s alive today. The young man has passed away. I unfortunately heard this story from the young man’s parents, who had wished they had known of trials as an option.” 

This drove Gunawardena to pursue a solution in order to help bridge the gap between who could participate in clinical treatments and who couldn't. 

Founding HealthMatch in 2017, Gunawardena describes the healthcare startup as a “patient-facing clinical trial recruitment platform". 

“Put simply, it helps patients and people interested in participating in clinical trials find and access them. Our mission is to make this process as easy as possible. It is about empowering patients to not only understand their treatment options but gain access. Every person deserves this and by reaching the largest audience as a global community we all benefit from fast-tracked new medicines,” she says.

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"The harsh reality is 80 per cent of clinical trials are delayed due to not being able to find patients, and a lot of the work of finding potential patients is still quite manual. HealthMatch uses technology to speed up this process, with a dynamic matching algorithm that pairs people to trials that they’re eligible for, and we do the work of connecting patients to the researchers."

Launching to the public in January 2019, HealthMatch has already amassed a user base of over 30,000 Australians and is currently growing by several thousand a week. The platform, which currently operates in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong is rapidly expanding through Asia, with women making up 70 per cent of its users. 

“Women's health is one of HealthMatch’s fastest growing areas in terms of user demand. We’ve seen an incredible response from women searching across all conditions but especially those specifically around women’s health,” Gunawardena says.

For many conditions that are specific to women, such as endometriosis and PCOS, this platform helps connect researchers to sufferers who wish to participate in these trials.

“For many women who have exhausted their treatment options and still battling a condition, there is an incredibly helpless feeling. HealthMatch is about changing that, about providing access to cutting edge research and putting the patient back at the steering wheel of their healthcare journey.

"Not only do you get to access potential new treatments that may help with your medical condition, but by creating an account with HealthMatch you’ll be constantly kept up to date with the latest research and trials that you may be eligible to participate in. It’s about empowering women to take control of their healthcare outcomes,” Gunawardena explains.

For the women who use the platform, that means not only accessing new and potentially better treatment options, but also learning more about the conditions they are suffering from and contributing to research that will define how their condition is treated in the future.

“Taking part in clinical trials might also just be the chance to contribute to one day finding effective treatment or a cure because quite simply without these trials we’d never have advances in healthcare,” Gunawardena says.

The incredible work HealthMatch does speaks for itself. In the past couple of months alone, they have helped hundreds of women find clinical trials, including trials for endometriosis, depression, and cancer.

“We have over 1000+ active clinical trials on HealthMatch. These trials vary significantly from testing eastern medicine techniques to the latest pharmaceutical medications. Not all trials involve a new drug or therapy though and may be more observational in nature to help inform future direction of treatments,” Gunawardena says.

Using the platform is straight-forward, and it's free. By simply entering your specific condition online via the HealthMatch website, you are able to search the platform for available clinical trials and their locations, empowering you to take control of your own health.

Feature image: Getty stock photo.

HealthMatch
HealthMatch takes the hard work out of finding and applying to clinical trials.
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