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‘That Is Empowerment’, – Dr. Tahir Mahmood on His Work with Flo on PCOS Pre-Diagnostic Tool

To develop PCOS Health Assistant – a tool that analyzes the symptoms a woman inputs to the app and assesses the risk of PCOS – Flo collaborated with Dr. Tahir Mahmood, Chair of the Standards of Care and Position statements group, European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Learn more about this collaboration and how Health Assistant can be of help to women and medical practitioners in the interview below.

Why did you decide to collaborate with Flo Health? 

I think that Flo has a clearly defined thought process and futuristic approach how to share knowledge. Knowledge is power. But the important thing is how to use that knowledge. And my understanding and my understanding from your application and work that you have done so far is that you think at the very basic level what an individual with an average IQ would like to know. And messages that could be made in a very simplistic way and without creating big questions, without creating the complex using, so the message is easy to convey, easy to understand. 

I'm very pleased to be part of the process, which is helping share knowledge for the everyday use.

And then your interactive approach to collect data prospectively which can help to advise women what they should be doing about their fertility control and other conditions. There's a lot of material on your application and website. I think it's very user-friendly and I'm very pleased to be part of the process, which is helping share that knowledge for the everyday use. Everybody can benefit from it.

Do you believe it's vital to connect medicine and technology in the area of women's health?

Women are 50% of the world population, and a healthy woman plays an essential part of the survival of the human race. 

If we do not understand the issues and problems of woman's health, I think that the human race is in danger. 

Technology has given us a better opportunity to reach those areas of the world where perhaps most modern medicine would not have been accessible. The new technology of mobile phones, easy access to wi-fi has made it easy to empower women. I think knowledge is empowerment. A woman knows when her period starts. And technology is doing that. An important aspect is, and it is our duty that we share that knowledge simplistically. And that is what Flo is doing.

What made you interested in helping develop PCOS pre-diagnostic tool?  

PCOS pre-diagnostic tool collects the data, which is the same thing that any doctor will do when the patient comes in to see them. So that is a very focused approach. 

A woman will look at the question, and then your system has to analyze the data to direct her in a certain direction. And that is exactly what I would do in my surgery at my clinic when people come. And you have a clearly defined question, but you look at an individual. And then your questions are very focused. 

What is Flo Health Assistant?

What is Flo Health Assistant?

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.

That always plays a part in the problem, because science changes, and understanding of the condition changes, and so does our ability to listen to those questions of some patients. Basic facts remain the same, as I gave you the example of Stein-Leventhal story, that not a lot has changed. Essentially, we are still working on the same diagnostic criteria but using different tools. 

It is important that our diagnostic tool should keep on focusing on new developments as well. So that may be a woman, especially in the western world, may have access to more tests, for example, there are young ladies I see sometimes, and they say "Can I have Anti-Mullerian hormone checked?" Because they have read it somewhere. So maybe we too should keep on evolving. Because that is the only way, we can connect medicine and technology for a futuristic use. 

How would you describe the value/impact that PCOS Health Assistant may bring?

I think that user-friendly and woman-friendly tool that helps women to understand their clinical conditions, their complaints, makes life easy. And that is what the health assistant will bring. It will use the diagram submitted by a woman in a different way and cross-referencing what else it could be. I think it is a very positive development. And we should continue to flourish progress on this one.

Do you think PCOS Health Assistant is an important step in creating access to credible medical knowledge to everyone - no matter who they are and where they live?

That's a very interesting question. 

Firstly, I think it's a creative way of looking into it. I think Flo should be very proud of this development. Because it is something engaging with women, proactively answering their questions, looking into their complaints, and then directing them what they should be asking a specialist. So that is the starting point. 

Knowledge is knowledge as long as you can understand the simple English or the simple language that Flo is using. 

The pre-diagnostic tools do help to direct the woman to go in the right direction, to the right specialist.

Thirdly, symptoms of a woman are the same wherever they live in the world. I always say there is no difference in a woman living in Europe or Africa or Southeast Asia. They have 46 xx. 

The symptoms, as long as they understand, they can use that knowledge anywhere they are. But there will be variations, for example, PCOS manifestation is slightly different in northern European women, and it is different in Southeast Asia, where hirsutism is more common. Hirsutism, which means excessive hair growth, is more common. And that may be even genetic rather than PCOS related. There may be some variation that you need to reflect on future development. 

But as a starting point, what is being done, I think it is very helpful. It is relevant to anybody anywhere they are using this information.

How can these pre-diagnostic tools help empower women to take a more proactive approach to their health?

I think it's important because sometimes you do have conditions in your life and you just ignore them. If you like, I give you the example, people are under pressure at work, and they feel tired, exhausted. They might think this is because I'm overworking. But if you look differently at this person, they may be not eating well, that person may not be sleeping well, that person may be anemic. That may explain tiredness rather than just being overworked. 

Knowledge is knowledge as long as you can understand the simple English or the simple language that Flo is using.

Developing the tool which can help women to have that knowledge and then go and seek advice from their clinician is empowering because then they can control their day-to-day life. They can decide when to seek advice, and then they know precisely why they need that advice. 

Taking, for example, PCOS, once she knows that her period is irregular. And that is empowerment. It helps a woman to decide what type of specialist to see and what medication they're being given and if it is useful in this situation. So, pre-diagnostic tools do help to direct the woman to go in the right direction, to the right specialist.

Can it be helpful for doctors to have their patients come into the office with questions about their health/potential conditions based on a pre-diagnostic tool? 

I think the data that the pre-diagnostic tool collects can be very helpful. Because a lot of time, ladies come and they present their symptoms, and they have not kept a diary of their symptoms, and they have an overview of their situation. Whereas the pre-diagnostic tool aggregates the information you have submitted through the tool weeks and weeks, and months and months. And summarizing that data helps. Because there is a short summary, your doctor can focus on. 

And secondly, women can focus on those symptoms which are affecting their quality of life. So, I think it helps both. A) From the woman's point of view. They can have a very focused presentation and focused on the discussion. And from the doctor's point of view. They can have a focused conversation and focused advice. And also plan out how to manage the potential conditions that have been identified during their discussion and put a stepwise approach to manage that person. I think the patient-doctor relationship is wonderful.

PCOS and unexpected pregnancy - real-life story by a Flo user

PCOS and unexpected pregnancy - real-life story by a Flo user

Surprisingly, but for some women PCOS may turn not into childbearing concerns but into a pregnancy they didn’t plan.

No two patients are the same, and no two patients require the same approach. And this is called the individualized approach. I work on that too. 

Having said that, most doctors do the same. Because people to treat an individual as an individual based on their individual symptoms. So, individuality is essential. And that is empowerment. And I think pre-diagnostic tools help.

Do you think that it may be important for people to have a safe digital space where they can anonymously discuss their health issues with peers and trusted MDs, and get support?

I think quite often, symptoms may be very personal, and it is a personal worry. And having a digital space where they can share their fears rather than sharing it with a close friend, and then that friend starts worrying as well. So, it's great if there is a trusted space being led by a specialist who can write answers to their questions, and of course, then sharing it with the peers, which again really helps to expand their knowledge. Because very often, we learn from our patients. I learn a lot from my patients. 

I always like to hear from my patients what they have learned about their condition. And that's my standard question. "How much do you know about this condition?" Some of them know very little; some of them have learned about the condition on some website. But having a safe space where people can send their questions, somebody can answer them, and let others reflect on it.

Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker

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  • Such an intuitive app! Hannah Malone
    I’ve tried several period tracker apps on the market and nothing is as good as Flo. It’s accurate, detailed providing you with an abundance of parameters to log, and they even provide useful articles and surveys to help you better understand the complex nature of the female body.
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    I use this app to track my period and symptoms and it’s so accurate. I tried a few other apps before this one and they were never so accurate and didn’t have as many tools to use.

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