The Company Transforming Healthcare One Vagina at a Time

From periods to masturbation, any discourse regarding the female body is considered as taboo. Pelvic examinations are no exception and have become synonymous with pain and distress. As part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we're highlighting one of the all-female companies kickstarting new conversations surrounding smear tests.

Words by Demie Tuzara

Global design and strategy firm, frog, opens the conversation surrounding vaginal health exams through Yona – a project to imagine a more ‘human’ healthcare experience for people with vaginas by encouraging patients to be an active and informed participant of their health journey. 

The experience of a medical pelvic exam can be deemed a dehumanising due to the lack of awareness and empathy placed on the physical examination. Many women feel anxious and uncomfortable due to such an invasive procedure. The concept of Yona takes into account the start-to-finish experience by focusing on three areas – a redesigned speculum, a digital experience, and exam room improvements. It considers the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the patient and provides more human-centred care by acknowledging the external and internal aspect of the procedure and the effect it has on the patient.

Hailey Stewart, Industrial Designer at frog who led the Yona Project alongside her partner Sahana Kumar who is an alum of frog said, “We recognised the need for a humanised pelvic exam experience that empowers patients. Our research showed us that many people with vaginas feel anxious about pelvic exams, which is no help to their health. Through Yona, we wanted to create a conversation and highlight that it is possible to balance human needs with clinical needs in the pelvic exam setting.”

Focusing on the speculum, it’s ridiculous to think that since the development of the medical tool 200 years ago, not much has been done to improve and cater to the patient’s well-being during the conduction of pelvic exams up until now.

Yona’s redesigned speculum is body-friendly and aims to get rid of the anxiousness that patients feel during the medical procedure. It’s approachable in form and material choice, the silicone reducing the discomfort of insertion; decreasing the coldness and the pain felt by the patient. Visual-wise the appearance of the medical tool is considered and is made plain and sleek so it’s less intimidating in the eyes of the patient. The auditory aspect of the speculum is also taken into account and is manufactured to eliminate noise, getting rid of the jarring clicks and ratchets that characterises the opening and closing valves of the speculums being used in medical practices and hospitals today.

It’s important to acknowledge the apprehensive nature of health examinations and not just accept the situation as it is because that’s ‘how it’s always been’. The redesigning of the speculum is a step forward and thanks to the concept of Yona, hopefully, the dread of undergoing a pelvic exam will become a thing of the past and provide a more positive healthcare experience for women.