PCOS

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“That’s Empowerment” – Dr. Tahir Mahmood on Flo’s PCOS Self-Assessment Tool

To develop the PCOS Health Assistant — a tool that analyzes the symptoms a Flo user logs in the app and assesses the risk of PCOS — Flo collaborated with Dr. Tahir Mahmood, Chair of the Standards of Care and Position Statements group at the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Learn more about this collaboration and how the Health Assistant can empower women and medical practitioners in this interview.


Interview has been edited for clarity.

Why did you decide to collaborate with Flo Health?

“I think that Flo has a clearly defined, futuristic approach to sharing knowledge. Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Mahmood. “But the important thing is how to use that knowledge. And messages could be made in a simplistic way and without creating needless complexity.” 

Dr. Mahmood helped create an interactive approach to advising people about their fertility and lifestyle. “There's a lot of material on the application and website. I think it's very user-friendly, and I'm pleased to help share that knowledge for everyday use. Everybody can benefit from it.”

What can connecting medicine and technology do for women's health?

Cisgender women are around 50% of the world’s population, and Dr. Mahmood believes that each healthy cisgender woman can play an essential part in human survival. 

“If we did not understand the current issues in women's health, I think that the human race would be in danger,” he says.

PCOS Self-Assessment Tool quote

“Technology has given us a better opportunity to reach areas of the world where some forms of modern medicine aren’t as accessible. Mobile phones and access to Wi-Fi have made accessing knowledge easier. It’s our duty as providers and developers to share that knowledge in a digestible way. And that’s what Flo is doing.” 

Flo’s PCOS self-assessment tool collects user data, just like a doctor will do when a patient visits. “It’s a very focused approach,” explains Dr. Mahmood. “A user will answer the app’s question, and then the system has to analyze the data and offer a certain direction. That’s exactly what I would do at my clinic for patients,” says Dr. Mahmood. 

Science constantly changes, and new understandings shape the way health care providers advise patients. In Dr. Mahmood’s words, “Basic facts about the body remain the same, but we’re using different tools based on growing discoveries.” 

The PCOS Health Assistant’s expected value and impact

Dr. Mahmood believes that a user-friendly tool that helps people record and understand their physical experiences can make their life easier.

“And that is what the Health Assistant does. It will use the diagram the user has submitted and cross-reference the response against other health concerns.”

Creating access to credible medical info for everyone

Dr. Mahmood appreciates the PCOS Health Assistant’s creative, straightforward approach. “We’re engaging with people, proactively answering their questions, looking into their concerns, and then suggesting when to see a specialist.”

This self-assessment tool reliably directs users to the best info, including when to see the right specialist.

Although each person’s experiences are unique, many symptoms are universal. “This resource is appropriate for anyone with ovaries.” 

As with most things, “There will be variations. For example, PCOS looks different in northern Europe than Southeast Asia. This difference could be genetic rather than PCOS-related.” Since Flo’s tool is tailored to each user’s inputs, it is relevant to everybody, everywhere.

How can self-assessment tools foster a proactive approach to health?

While juggling a busy schedule, some people may feel tempted to ignore or downplay certain health signs. Dr. Mahmood shares an example: “People are under pressure at work, and they feel tired, exhausted. They might think, ‘This is because I'm overworking.’ But if they shifted their perspective a bit, they might realize they’re not eating well, not sleeping well, or dealing with a chronic health condition.” 

Knowledge doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerful.

Per Dr. Mahmood, Flo’s latest tool can equip people with insight that they can share with a health care provider, offering greater control and autonomy. They can decide when to seek advice and know precisely why they need it. 

“Take PCOS: once you know that your period is irregular, you can decide which type of specialist to see and read about what they may advise,” he says. “And that direction is empowerment.”

How can self-assessment tools support doctors?

Dr. Mahmood believes that self-assessment tools can help patients prepare thoughtful questions for their health care visits. 

“I think the data that the self-assessment tool collects can be very helpful as a detailed diary of someone’s symptoms, instead of just an overview. It summarizes weeks or even months of information, giving your doctor a summary they can focus on.”

No two patients are the same, and no two patients will require the same approach. That’s where our individualized approach excels.

This pre-visit preparation and efficient health care use could promote a better quality of life for users. It offers patients clear talking points and evidence to draw from, and it helps doctors focus on areas of key concern to deliver more focused advice. “I think the patient-doctor relationship is wonderful,” he emphasizes. “Flo’s tool helps establish a stepwise approach to clinical visits.”

No two patients are the same, and no two patients require the same approach. “That’s where our individualized approach excels.”

Building a safe digital space to discuss health issues anonymously with peers and MDs

“Quite often, symptoms may be very personal,” says Dr. Mahmood. “Having a digital space where people can share their concerns can be helpful. Our goal was to offer a trusted space, led by a specialist, who can answer questions, as well as a community of peers. Often, we learn from our patients.” 

Dr. Mahmood asks all of his patients a key question: "How much do you know about this condition?" He continues, “Some of them know very little; some of them have learned about the condition online. But having a safe space where people can get questions answered and brainstorm with others who are having similar experiences — that’s empowerment.”