Chasm Conversations

Leaders in Women’s Healthcare with Elaine Purcell, Co-founder and COO of Oula

May 15, 2024

Last week, we launched our Women’s Health Month series with Judith Nowlin, CEO of Nest Collaborative, who is on a mission to transform prenatal and postnatal care for parents nationwide. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

This week, we connected with Elaine Purcell, Co-founder and COO of Oula, a system of modern maternity clinics making headlines that combines the best of obstetrics and midwifery care to deliver an evidence-based and personalized pregnancy experience. Elaine is passionate about improving maternal health care in the U.S. and shared her thoughts, hopes, and inspirations for women’s healthcare with us in this interview. 

About Elaine Purcell

While working for startups and public policy during the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Elaine saw the problems with our country’s healthcare system up close: it was expensive, unwieldy, and left too many people without access to basic care. When it came to women’s health — a topic she had been passionate about for years — all of these problems were magnified. 

During her career, Elaine has consulted with large health systems and insurers at Deloitte and sat on leadership teams at two major primary care companies, Privia Health and CareMore Health. As Co-founder and COO at Oula, Elaine is on a mission to redesign maternity care from the ground up. By combining the best of obstetrics and midwifery care in a hospital setting, Oula's collaborative care model is emerging as a mainstream solution to the tragic outcomes and horrific experiences that have defined maternity care in the U.S. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in women's healthcare?

When my co-founder, Adrianne Nickerson, and I started to plan for having kids, we were ready to do the research and find the best care. Like many women, we talked to our friends. They described an experience that was impersonal and isolating at best, and dangerous at worst. I recall being so surprised by that. How can it be dangerous? Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time, and yet the women in my life were saying they felt poked and prodded but not cared for. This realization inspired us to dive into the data, both domestically and internationally, to find a better way. We discovered there could be a better way, which is why we started Oula.

“Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time, and yet the women in my life were saying they felt poked and prodded but not cared for. This realization inspired us to dive into the data, both domestically and internationally, to find a better way.”

ELAINE PURCELL, CO-FOUNDER & COO OF OULA

How does Oula support women's health?

Oula is a system of maternity clinics, which means we actually deliver babies! We bring together the best of the midwifery and obstetric models of care and use technology to stitch together what typically is quite a fragmented experience for women.

We believe that by improving the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, we can improve health outcomes. In the past three years, we’ve delivered over 1,500 babies — including two of my own — reduced c-sections by 30%, and have 50% fewer preterm births than local and national averages. These statistics prove that our hypothesis is true. Now, we’re actively working to expand our reach by opening three new clinics in New York City.

What motivates your work in women's healthcare, and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Maternal care is broken everywhere; I hear it from moms and parents almost every day. As such, we have an impetus to grow nationally to serve that need. We also need to bring maternity care into the 21st century and believe the best way to do that is through a hybrid model. Although you can’t deliver babies over Zoom, we can impact more patients in a shorter period by engaging them IRL (in real life) and virtually. 

Our goal in the next four years is to facilitate 10 times more deliveries than what we are doing today. We plan to do this with more clinics, more cities, and more healthy parents and babies.

What hopes do you have for women’s healthcare in the coming years?

Unfortunately, a majority of personal health care relies on finding a team of people who align with your health goals and philosophies. This used to mean concierge services and paying tons of money out of pocket. Oula, like many other women’s health start-ups, is a 100% insurance-based model. 

I’m thrilled to see increased attention and funding for women’s health more broadly from the Biden administration, with many of the initiatives focused on driving affordability. We have so far to go in that space, but it's exciting to see progress.


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Elaine Purcell
Co-founder and COO, Oula

Elaine Purcell

Co-founder and COO, Oula

As Co-founder and COO at Oula, Elaine is on a mission to redesign maternity care from the ground up. By combining the best of obstetrics and midwifery care in a hospital setting, Oula’s collaborative care model is emerging as a mainstream solution to the tragic outcomes and horrific experiences that have defined maternity care in the U.S. 

While working for startups and public policy during the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Elaine saw the problems with our country’s healthcare system up close: it was expensive, unwieldy, and left too many people without access to basic care. When it came to women’s health — a topic she had been interested in for years — all of these problems were magnified. During her career, Elaine has consulted with large health systems and insurers at Deloitte and sat on the leadership teams at two major primary care companies, Privia Health and CareMore.

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