How Noah, a Singapore digital male health clinic is eliminating stigma around sensitive conditions with its service
In the decades that have led to 2021, we've witnessed many milestones — in acceptance, reforming society's ideals of beauty, and even normalising the topic of mental health. And while we've made much headway in all of that, especially in the body positivity department, that was and still is, a subject in the female domain. Which does circle us back to addressing the stigma in males — why aren't problems amongst men addressed more often?
Last year in June, our city went through a partial lockdown, where most of us were challenged when held in isolation. Undeniably, it was a tumultuous time for folks who were lacking in moral support, while dwindling down with health issues further amplified. It was hard to get out and get some face time, much less, any sort of reprieve that was desperately needed for those struggling. That was when, Noah was launched. A digital health clinic for males, where they could visit to address and fix highly sensitive conditions without the embarrassment or the fear of being found out. Their goal is to make healthcare for men more accessible in Singapore. From start to finish, Noah offers a discreet, affordable, and seamless healthcare experience with licensed doctors, prescription medication and follow-up care.
According to the Singapore Medical Journal, 51.3% of Singaporean men in their 30s have some form of Erectile Dysfunction (ED), yet only 30% are currently undergoing treatment. An internal survey of Noah's customers, also suggested that over 73% of the surveyed customers wouldn't have sought treatment, if not for the service.
Today, the founders have also launched Zoey, a separate platform for females. But to uncover the overwhelming reception of the male telehealth service and the stigmas that still stand today, we speak to founder Sean Low.
How did the idea of Noah come about? Was there any encounters that you had that led to setting this up?
There's a lot of talk on women's health, but when it comes to men's health, there's barely a sound. A quick Google search will show you that the results are fear-based, poorly marketed, hyper aggressive, and leaves one feeling unsure about its safety and legitimacy. Noah is here to change that — to provide the reassurance that despite being stigmatised, conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation (PE), hair loss, are actually more commonplace than we think.
That's why we've created an inclusive telemedicine platform which makes healthcare more accessible to all men in Singapore. Most people would have had their first teleconsult experience during the Circuit Breaker period as well, and we wanted that first-time to be a delightful, enriching and purposeful one.
Who is Noah meant for?
Noah is meant for patients from all backgrounds and socio-economic classes. We have patients as old as their 70s, and as young as 21 years of age.
What are some important issues that are being addressed at Noah?
Noah specialises in highly sensitive conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation (PE), and hair loss. These are predominantly tough topics to talk about due to existing stigma and machismo.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a condition in which a man finds it difficult to get or maintain an erection long or firm enough for sex. In Singapore, ED is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions that men experience, with 51.3% of Singaporean males above the age of 30 experiencing some form of ED (Tan et al., 2003). This is also linked to the increased risk of other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and vascular diseases, which are more commonly experienced as men age.
Premature ejaculation (PE) is defined as any instance when a man faces endurance issue during sex, where the man persistently reaches orgasm and ejaculates earlier than desired before, on or after penetration. In other words, PE is when you ejaculate too quickly during sexual activity. There's no defined time to consider ejaculation as "premature", but the majority of sources cite a duration under four minutes.
Male pattern baldness is permanent and unfortunately does not have a cure, but with treatment, may be able to slow down the hair loss and even regrow hair. However, men who experience balding all of a sudden with no apparent cause should seek immediate medical help to determine the reason. Sudden hair loss may be because of medical conditions, like alopecia areata, vitamin deficiency or arising as a side effect of a medication you're taking. These types of hair loss are usually not permanent and can be treated.
The idea of problems for men, why don't you think people discuss it openly enough? And why do you think society still shies away from speaking about it?
It's the notion of having to answer tough personal questions about their body, more so in the case of ED or PE, which puts them in an uncomfortable position even to a trained healthcare professional.
How does the service work?
We wanted to build a brand and raise awareness for highly sensitive conditions, and at the same time, develop a platform experience that is simple to use from start to finish. Noah provides everything from online evaluation to free, 4-hour medication delivery and free doctor follow-ups in one seamless experience.
Patients will first fill in a comprehensive online medical assessment for our panel of doctors to understand their concerns. This helps to overcome the discomfort of in-person consultations and ensure the follow-up teleconsult with the doctor is more comfortable, concise and free of embarrassment as the tough questions had already been answered, thereby shifting the focus on the treatment plan for the patient. If our doctors deem a prescription is right for you, we'll ship your medication to you in a discreet packaging within four hours, at no cost.
With the clinic being digital, what are some considerations that had to be taken into account during the set-up?
Discretion is central to our design and service ethos and a priority across all aspects of our business function. We identified it as a need gap through several consumer interviews and the need for which was even more pronounced when it came to stigmatised conditions. From the moment the patient begins an online medical evaluation, right to doorstep deliveries and subsequent refills, discretion becomes central to the service experience. It's not just our nondescript packaging, but also patients' credit card bills and how the prescription is being delivered.
There is also the concern about legitimacy and misinformation. Every step of the patients' treatment journey is vetted and certified by a team of medical experts, to ensure the highest quality care to our patients. Our panel of doctors are certified by the Singapore Medical Council and come with over 20 years of experience in their relevant expertise. We also have independent medical advisors, like Dr Peter Lim, founding president of the Society for Men's Health Singapore and the medical director of Andrology, Urology & Continence Centre at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore and Dr David Loh, president of the Society of Aesthetics Medicine, Singapore.
How do you think Noah can help alleviate misconceptions in the society?
We often use playful innuendos to make the message more relatable and less awkward to talk about. Our research and market survey has found that the more forward and suggestive our lines are, the more appealing they are to our audience, and act as the best way to begin a conversation.
In truth, when it comes to health, taking care of ourselves is not an easy task. We tend to put things off, due to work, long queues at the clinic, not having time, and sometimes the fear of finding out what's truly wrong with our body. That's why with Noah, our end goal is to eventually destigmatise these taboo conditions, and encourage men to seek treatment for them.