Photo of three company co-founders
Mahmee was co-founded by Melissa Hanna, J.D., the company’s CEO (center), her mother Linda Hanna, R.N.C., MSN/Ed., who serves as chief nursing officer and is a registered nurse in obstetrics, and Sunny Walia, who is chief technology officer. (Mahmee)

Mahmee is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here

There’s been growing attention paid this past year to the U.S.’ shocking maternal mortality rate.

Photo of Melissa Hanna
Melissa Hanna (Mahmee)

That attention resulted from grim statistics that paint a dismal record on maternal and child health. The U.S. is one of only three countries where maternal deaths are on the rise, joining Sudan and Afghanistan. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 700 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy complications.

But it's also brought much-needed awareness, said Melissa Hanna, CEO of Los Angeles-based maternal and infant health tech company Mahmee. “I’m glad to see it get this national attention that it absolutely requires to solve the problem,” she said.

In July, the company got $3 million in funding, including from big-name investors tennis star Serena Williams and billionaire Mark Cuban, who signed on to back the company’s idea for addressing the problem. Mahmee is unique in combining technology and healthcare with the ambitious goal of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, she said.

To that end, Mahmee has developed a comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care management platform that increases positive health outcomes for moms and babies. Its staff of certified and trained maternity support professionals, or “maternity coaches,” are able to deliver proactive, ongoing education and guidance to new families everywhere at a fraction of the cost.

The company has over 1,000 providers and organizations in its network including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, AltaMed and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In addition to its tech platform, Mahmee has opened five pop-up clinics in Los Angeles where patients can see a Mahmee care provider. Mahmee plans to expand those in 2020 to several new locations in California and out of state, Hanna said. She declined to specify how many clinics and their locations.

Fierce insights from Melissa Hanna, CEO and co-founder of Mahmee

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

It’s to think holistically about making the business case for your startup. Healthcare startups tend to face a number of different hurdles and conflicting dynamics. So when you are making that business case, you have to think about multiple players, stakeholders and organizations that may be touched by or affected by the startup you are building. Think broadly. It’s not as simple as a one-to-one kind of solution. The most powerful companies in this space today are really tackling problems from multiple angles.

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

One of our early lessons came from a failure in the implementation of the Mahmee platform. That was with an early customer where we had significant support and buy-in from senior leadership and we thought that was enough to go live. We launched the platform and we had very little engagement from patients and providers. It was a failure of a go-live. What we realized was that even though we expected the providers would have heard about this project from senior leadership, as it turned out most of the doctors in this health system just didn’t really know about us. They didn’t know that Mahmee was doing this work on the ground. The lesson was: engage the providers. It’s all about engaging the providers, creating coalitions and building relationships. We were able to turn that around and in three months' time see a really successful implementation of the platform in that health system. But only after we spent time meeting with providers on the ground, doing demonstrations and really getting buy-in from them about the work we’re doing. From there, they started getting all their patients involved.

What is one change you predict in healthcare that people wouldn’t expect?

Maternal mortality data released earlier in 2019 pointed to critical disparities in care and far too many preventable deaths. It was a wake-up call for our country, and many folks expect there to be an immediate change. While the momentum is certainly rising, I believe it will take a concerted effort among organizations, companies, and state-based programs to create the kind of systemic change required to make a real dent in the data. Results will not come easy, and I predict that it will take us longer than we expect to effect change. We are not yet at that tipping point, because maternal healthcare outcomes data are still being analyzed and new policies are still being debated at the state and federal levels, and thus many industry-changing initiatives are yet to be launched. I see change happening in 2021 or beyond. This year, our industry and the healthcare innovation community must keep our eye on the prize and continue to push this change forward.