Lauren Orlick (Co-Founder, HeartSnug)

Lauren saw firsthand how dispiriting the medical process can be when her mother went through a battle with cancer. Always looking to be a part of the solution, Lauren was inspired to search for ways for patients to feel comfortable during procedures that are awkward and associated with physical exposure and emotional vulnerability. Her primary goal in co-founding HeartSnug is to help patients feel protected and covered—literally!

Image: Lauren Orlick
Image: Lauren Orlick

How would you explain your job to a five-year-old? 

I'd probably put the 5-year-old in a superhero cape and a HeartSnug and a medical gown and say, “We've got you covered. We’re making sure you're protected mentally and physically when going to see your doctor and making sure you feel okay with your doctor. Your body parts are your body parts, but we all need to get checked. And a lot of times we don't understand what's happening to our body. And that's okay. And you can ask those questions and HeartSnug’s there as a chest garment to help make you feel more comfortable when going to the doctor and asking your doctor questions. Because you should fight for your health.”

As I look back, I wish for our kids to be empowered. The word empowerment is thrown around quite a bit. I wish I was more empowered as a kid. I wish the health system was presented to me in a really educational yet non scary environment, so even as a five year old I could know to ask questions and to take charge of my health.

The reason behind HeartSnug is Sarah, one of our co-founders. Sarah had open heart surgery as a baby. So, she's literally a miracle baby. And because of this lifesaving procedure at birth, she was put through a litany of exams and appointments all her life. And you can imagine as a mom back in the seventies being like, “Oh, my God, my daughter just was saved, please, everybody go in.” And in these large teaching hospitals, it's a predominantly male environment. There was all this focus on saving Sarah, and it hit her at about teen age where she just felt really uncomfortable being in the room. The three of us grew up together and I saw the mental side of what appointments can do to patients from our own lived experiences. So I actually know there’s a lot to be told to that 5-year-old kid.

What excites you most about your job?

Working with other female co-founders, not only within the femtech space. I’ve loved meeting many like-minded individuals who have gotten to the point of saying “Enough's enough” and have created a specific device to fix a problem.

We’re cntinuing to reach as many people as we can to get HeartSnug out to as many as we can. The exposure of talking to various other female founders and really the support we've given each other, creating new strategic partnerships—which are essential for small and female-founded business owners—with those who have similar messaging around changing the landscape for women's healthcare.

We're so grateful and for who we get to talk to. There's a lot to be changed, but being able to support each other and band together and really create the change that's needed is wonderful.

It's not easy, but we're here and we're saying enough is enough. 

Which trend will change the future of medicine? 

I wish we could say that because women make up the majority that we’re banding together and that’s that, but we need the strength of government support, of Big Pharma. We need those who are really leading women's health and healthcare overall to invest and continue to.

I know femtech, we are mighty, but there is support that is needed from a multi-pronged approach. There are so many innovations that don’t make it and it's not because of not being a good product, but it's because of the funding. But, there's money here. We just have to spend it in the right direction—whether it's digital health and or a holistic product like HeartSnug.

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated? 

I think that especially as we launched, we did a lot of surveys and studies and trials with HeartSnug. And we received strong feedback around truly meeting the unmet need. And we’ve given an enormous amount of focus to education and awareness. The gown that was created in 1619 by Charles Delorme shouldn't still be considered the only standard of excellence when providing support physically and mentally to patients.

I think when we launched, it’s not that we thought it would be a lot easier, but we thought the majority would see it. And so we've shifted the way we communicate to highlight the unmet need and why HeartSnug is the first of its kind adjustable, x-ray safe chest garment. 

We don't fit the box, right? We're not 1 of 10 other products out there and we're trying to sell why our best option. We're really trying to shift a mental landscape. We want HeartSnug to be offered when the medical gown is offered. And so there's procedures that have to be put into place.

We're working with individual hospitals and medical chains to implement HeartSnug as part of their daily routine. But I think, there was definitely resistance of thinking, “Well, we already have the medical gown. Why isn't that enough?” But from our research, we know that the gown has been directly tied to feeling naked and exposed, and it leads to the patient feeling like they’re inhabiting more of a ‘sick’ role.

It takes quite a while for change to happen. We're in it for the marathon, not the sprint. 

Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention? 

FemInnovation. It's a platform for female-founded companies like ourselves that was created by Kate Arnold and Bethany Corbin to help companies and female founders nevigate strategic partnerships and make sure that we're making the correct decisions and have a network and resources to leverage. 

Where would you put a million dollars? 

Grow the business, get a marketing team. The list is endless. That would mean a world of difference to a company like HeartSnug to continue to forge those strong strategic partnerships and grow as a company internationally, which we're doing now, but there's only a mighty team of three of us. So I imagine what we could take on with a million bucks. The change would be next level.

What's the best advice you've ever received? 

Be part of the solution and not the problem. And fight for what you believe in—just because you might think differently, doesn't mean you're wrong.

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