The statistics on the opioid addiction are staggering. Overdoses increased 21% in 2016 over 2015 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 2017 doesn’t look much better. Pamela Hadfield, Co-Founder and Evangelist at HelloMD said her company is gearing its site to address getting off of opioids and using cannabis as an exit drug. “We see close to 100,000 patients. We consistently get emails and calls from people that are getting off of their opioids and using cannabis instead.”
That may surprise some people. That a website intended to address cannabis consumers is also tackling opioid addiction. Yet, HelloMD did an observational study in conjunction with UC Berkeley using 3,000 patients and 97% of the participants said that they reduced their opioid intake when they started to take cannabis for chronic pain. “The bottom line is, people don’t die from cannabis. People are dying from opioids,” said Hadfield.
Hadfield is quick to point out that cannabis isn’t a quick silver bullet to stopping an opioid addiction. “A lot of people actually don’t get off of opioids. What they do is they drastically reduce their intake of them,” she said. “Instead of taking multiple pills a day, they reduce it down to a level where the likelihood of overdosing does down.”
She co-founded HelloMD in 2013 with her husband Mark Hadfield. Before this, she had spent many years as a creator of original User Experiences for many tech companies. She was also a consultant with the United States Air Force for a short time. During all this Hadfield suffered from chronic migraines and was looking for an alternative pain reliever when she turned to cannabis. She says she found instant relief and was able to quit taking opiates. She pivoted from her original idea of creating a website to address medical questions to one that focused on answering medical cannabis questions. Now she wants to make sure people have access to medical marijuana and equal access to information and education.
“We want to capitalize on that by allowing them to connect and engage in ways that they haven’t been before,” said Hadfield. “We call it the lifecycle of the journey of the cannabis patient. We have many touchpoints within that. When somebody becomes interested in cannabis, they often, they want to do research. They want to find out, they’re kind of curious. Right?”
Hadfield added, “The next touchpoint is that they’d like to actually go and get some cannabis, so they need a medical recommendation. In California and in New York we’re allowing that to happen with our telehealth service.” This is a service where a consumer can have a consultation with a doctor through live video using a smartphone as an alternative to an in-person visit. Assuming that it meets certain state laws.
“What we’re here to do is build a community and to bring people together and to take all those sort of disaggregated pieces and start to put them together so that people understand not only what’s going on with themselves and how cannabis might help them as a tool for health and wellness, but also come to find out about brands. Be able to ask their questions. People are able to ask questions on our site and get answers,” said Hadfield. She also noted that doctors on HelloMD often cost much lower like $150 versus the $400-$600 charges that she’s heard about in the New York area.
She said the next step for HelloMD is to create community hubs for specific conditions. She envisions a community center for Parkinson’s disease as an example where patients can ask one another about specific cannabis remedies and what they feel has worked.
The Future Of Hello MD
As a co-founder she has heard the criticism regarding the company’s focus on helping patients and whether that is financially sustainable. Her response? “We’ve always felt that it’s in our best interests to build up a community around that. That’s a global play.”
“When I think long term, if we’re building business around communities and disease states, imagine if we have millions of people coming in for cancer, millions of people coming in around epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s, you name it, over time they’re going to be telling us a lot about their lives and how they’re using cannabis and telling us their story. And the relaunch of our platforms around people telling their story. You can imagine the kind of data that we’ll be able to accrue in the next three to five years, if we focus, even if we just focused on that.”