“Healthcare is politicized and the patient is the last in line. Universal healthcare is seen as a “socialist principle” rather than a human right. And yet, even with insurance coverage, medical care is astronomical compared to other first world countries. Access to healthcare diminishes accordingly.”
Pamela Hadfield is a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of HelloMD, the largest online community of health and wellness cannabis consumers. After treating her debilitating migraines with cannabis successfully, Pamela launched HelloMD, initially as a telehealth service designed to connect medical cannabis patients with doctors over live video. HelloMD has since expanded to include community, educational content, cannabis marijuana sales within California, and hemp derived CBD sales across the United States. HelloMD’s digital healthcare platform operates in Canada, South Africa and will continue to open global operations in multiple countries throughout 2019.
Thank you so much for joining us Pamela! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
For 25 years I struggled with debilitating migraines and had exhausted all of my options for pain management. Nothing worked, and in fact, many medications made my symptoms worse. A friend suggested I try cannabis in lieu of traditional pharmaceuticals. As I had no other options, I decided to give it a try. In three months I left Vicodin behind, and in six months I was preventing my migraines altogether.
I realized it was time to pivot my traditional healthcare business into cannabis and help others, who like myself, seemed out of alternatives. What had been my medication of last resort, should have been my medication of first resort. HelloMD was born out of my own healthcare transformation and has since become a digital healthcare platform where anyone can receive a doctor’s consultation, education, or purchase cannabis products delivered to their door.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting story is the common thread you see among patients day in and out, where cannabis successfully helps people improve their overall health and wellness. Whether it be a cancer patient suffering from severe pain and she is able to avoid the numbing effect of opioids, or a young man suffering from severe anxiety who uses CBD in lieu of traditional anxiety meds, cannabis is a natural alternative with little to no side effects.
It is a multi-functional tool that works seamlessly within our own system to bring us into balance. It’s not always a silver bullet, but it’s a tool we should consider within our wellness toolkit. As cannabis goes mainstream, and more people try cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals, there is a sea-change in how people approach and view their own healthcare, and cannabis is now a part of that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early on, my co-founder and I went seeking investment capital from venture capitalists and found every door quickly slammed in our face — even though we were outperforming many traditional telehealth platforms. During this time, I happened to go to a dinner party at a well-known VC’s house. Over dinner I asked him why he thought we were having a hard time raising capital. In his words, while drinking a glass of wine, he said, “You might as well be in porn or gambling, you’re practically a drug dealer! It’s like Mary Louise Parker from ‘Weeds.’ VCs will never go near you.”
Perhaps it’s not the funniest mistake I have made, but the funniest mistake the VC industry has made.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our goal is to meet people wherever they may be within their cannabis journey through a full service digital healthcare platform. A person’s journey often starts with general education. HelloMD offers articles, videos and Q&As, as well as educational live streaming (HelloMD Live). Consumers may then follow up by consulting with a doctor over video in real time to receive advice on cannabis consumption and finally, we deliver hemp-derived CBD nationwide and THC marijuana products to customers within California. From A to Z we aim to support health and wellness cannabis consumers; through education, addressing their questions, and concerns, all the way through purchase.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
We live in a world that craves instant gratification but when it comes to healthcare, things take time. You won’t always see the results of your work immediately, but keep on plugging away and you will see hard-earned results.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
I am not an expert on the US healthcare system, but what I have seen from my vantage point as an expert within the cannabis industry is the following:
1. The US healthcare system prioritizes making money over the welfare and best interests of the patient. Case in point, is the marketing and profiteering that happened over the last 25 years with OxyContin, a major contributor to the opioid epidemic.
2. Healthcare is politicized and the patient is the last in line. Universal healthcare is seen as a “socialist principle” rather than a human right. And yet, even with insurance coverage, medical care is astronomical compared to other first world countries. Access to healthcare diminishes accordingly. As a nation, we need to first demand universal care for ourselves and then representation from our politicians. Overcoming the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists, among others, to reform the system will be challenging but not impossible.
3. The US healthcare system is geared towards offering new medical solutions and high tech procedures to treat symptoms, rather than the well being of the person. Much of the medical care delivered in the US is either unnecessary or inadequate, costing us billions of dollars. As a result, patient outcomes often decline as more is done to treat symptoms rather than the cause. In the US we treat people with Diabetes with a pill rather than address the whole person. In addition, alternative solutions such as cannabis are frowned upon or dismissed as they are from outside of the traditional medical construct.
As a mental health professional myself, I’m particularly interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now we have two parallel tracks mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?
40 million Americans suffer from anxiety and over 16 million suffer from depression. From my seat in the cannabis industry, I often see the cross over between mental and physical health and the enormous divide in treatment. My personal preference is to move towards an integrative medical system which looks at the whole person.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
An excellent healthcare provider — the person I would want to see — considers me as a whole person, looking at all aspects of body, mind, and spirit, and the interplay between them. He or she would consider traditional approaches combined with alternatives, such as cannabis or acupuncture, to see what my body responds to best. We would work as a partnership to find natural alternatives whenever possible to support general best practices for overall health and wellness and be open to new approaches.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A quote by Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” has always resonated with me. It is easy to sit back and either complain or be complacent, it is far harder to go against the tide and stand for what you believe in, especially when there may be a backlash against you. Great change has never happened without great risk, whether it be personal or professional. When I first started in the cannabis industry, most people I knew and trusted advised me against it. During this time, I often would wake up at 3am wondering “What the hell am I doing?!” and I would think of this quote.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Currently, we are working on international expansion into Africa, Europe, and South America. Cannabis is now a global phenomenon and as it spreads from North America into the rest of the world it will be largely viewed and accepted for its medical applications first and then its potential for health and wellness. Before going mainstream though, there is an enormous need for education and connection with a trusted advisor, which is where HelloMD comes in. We are excited to tap into new markets and reach people who are eager to explore cannabis for its enormous therapeutic value, whether it be for a child with epilepsy or a person who suffers from severe chronic pain, we believe cannabis should be an accessible option for everyone.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
I love listening to the podcast Ted Radio Hour by NPR, which collects different Ted Talks into central themes. Every time I listen to this podcast I learn something new and feel that it opens my mind to a new thought or idea I may not have considered before. I also enjoy selective podcasts of the Tim Ferris Show, which is a business podcast that deconstructs successful business people to understand the tricks and tools they use in order to become successful. I’m also a fan of the new Garden Society — the Podcast, a show by the cannabis co-founders of the successful California cannabis brand Garden Society. They recently had me on an episode (stay tuned) and I’ve been listening since the beginning.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Currently I feel like I’m part of a movement, the normalization and legitimization of cannabis as a medicine. I’m now a cannabis and wellness advocate who is passionate about educating others about the plant. However, my own prejudice against cannabis resulted in a resistance to trying medical marijuana for her migraines. These false assumptions not only prolonged my chronic pain but were also inaccurate and largely misinformed. Cannabis healed me, but my own prejudice held me back from this discovery. Beyond cannabis, I advocate that as a society, we keep an open mind and remain willing to try new things in the face of convention.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the Author:
Originally from Israel, Limor Weinstein has been anorexic and bulimic, a “nanny spy” to the rich and famous and a Commander in the Israeli Army. Her personal recovery from an eating disorder led her to commit herself to a life of helping others, and along the way she picked up two Master’s Degrees in Psychology from Columbia University and City College as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Eating Disorder Treatment from the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.
Upon settling in New York, Limor quickly became known as the “go to” person for families struggling with mental health issues, in part because her openness about her own mental health challenges paved the way for open exchanges. She understood the difficulties many have in finding the right treatment, as well as the stigma that remains so prevalent towards those who are struggling with mental health issues. She realized that most families are quietly struggling with a problem they’re not comfortable talking about, and that discomfort makes it much less likely that they will get the help they need for their loved ones. She discovered that being open and honest about her own mental health challenges took the fear out of the conversations. Her mission became to research and guide those families to the highest-quality treatment available. Helping others became part of her DNA, as has a commitment to supporting and assisting organizations that perform research and treatment in the mental health arena.
After years of helping families by helping connect them to the right treatment and wellness services, Limor realized that the only way to ensure that they are receiving appropriate, coordinated and evidence-based care would be to stay in control of the entire treatment process. That realization led her to create Bespoke Wellness Partners, which employs over 100 of the best clinicians and wellness providers in New York and provides confidential treatment and wellness services throughout the city. Bespoke has built its reputation on strong relationships, personalized, confidential service and a commitment to ensuring that all clients find the right treatment for their particular issues.
In addition to her role at Bespoke Wellness Partners, Limor is the Co-Chair of the Academy of Eating Disorders. She lives with her husband, three daughters and their dog Rex in Manhattan.
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