There’s no ‘healthy’ way to address the COVID-19 pandemic, other than ignoring your own mental health and wellbeing. If you’re someone who suffers from extreme anxiety and depression, social isolation and quarantining certainly has made your life all the more difficult. 

Two years ago, I was hit by a school bus that ran a red light because the driver fell asleep at the wheel, with children aboard. Miraculously, I was able to walk out of it, but it came at a cost: chronic pain up and down my back. 

Since that event, I’ve been accustomed to not only physical therapy but obtaining regular, bi-weekly massage appointments. That was, up and until the pandemic hit 10-months ago, making my recovery all the more difficult. I couldn’t risk exposing myself to anyone who might already be infected with the virus. 

So, as we enter into what is believed to be the “third wave” of the coronavirus, does it make logical sense for individuals like myself to be utilizing such treatments? Or to rephrase, does it make sense for consumers to book their wellness appointment–even on demand?

“Whenever you have two people coming together, there’s always a risk that somebody will be infected, even if you both don’t have any symptoms,” said Carl Fichtenbaum, an epidemiologist with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s division of infectious diseases in a recent HuffPost article

I spoke with John Ellis, CEO of Soothe, the world’s leading on-demand wellness platform, operating in over 73 markets across the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, and Australia. Soothe allows users to connect with licensed professionals, including CBD spot treatments, to schedule a same-day service in the privacy of their home as well as workplace wellness services. 

The company has gained significant traction throughout the industry, making an appearance on the TV’s The Dr’s, as well as actress Mila Kunis gifting the audience on The Ellen DeGeneres Show a gift card to Soothe. And not bad timing.

While it’s hard to see the positives that COVID-19 has left, it has accelerated the importance of mental health and wellness, opening it up to cyberspace and health tech. 

With social distancing restrictions still in place, it’s been challenging in finding ways to keep wellness a priority. And according to Ellis, Soothe is now expanding beyond massage services, adding a number of wellness services available on-demand.

The demand for these types of services is even greater now, Ellis told me. “People would rather have an individual come to them than go into a public space. Once they see how convenient it is, many have said this is now their new ‘norm.’” 

But of course, in the interest of safety and wellbeing, it’s only fair that certain questions be asked. “Questions usually center around the services we offer, when we’re available, and the quality of the providers,” Ellis says.

Even in a pandemic, you don’t just want any stranger in your home, right? More importantly, you don’t just want anyone touching you, especially if they aren’t licensed to do so. Ellis explained that the company looks at a number of criteria when vetting its licensed therapists, including certifications and number of years in practice, among other things. 

“Each professional goes through an application process that includes a rigorous background check…and…continuous monitoring, including looking at ongoing ratings to ensure the safety and quality of the clients and professionals using Soothe.”

Andrew Rossow: How does this form of mobile-tech play into this form of health and wellness?

John Ellis: It enables people to easily make health and wellness part of their everyday life. It’s so convenient to open the app and find a service professional who can help address specific problems. We even have articles that address different topics, if you just want to take a break and learn more about aspects of body or mental health. 

AR: What is the biggest challenge you’ve seen when integrating the “personalization” of booking a therapist? How have you overcome it?

JE: Earlier in our company’s history, we focused mostly on the logistics of trying to help facilitate an appointment – things like the availability of therapists with the right background at the right time of day given traffic, weather, etc. We’re always working to make this even better, but also shifting our focus toward more detailed problem-solving. 

For instance, a lot of customers have preferred providers who know the issues they’re trying to solve, whether simple stress relief, recovery from a sports injury or something else. We make it easy to rebook with a preferred provider, but helping clients and their providers track this information will improve the overall experience and make each subsequent appointment even better.

AR: What has been the biggest takeaway the company has seen when it comes to booking / post-massage? 

JE: Many people think of massage or other wellness services as a simple luxury. However, those who do it regularly see benefits like reduced stress and tension, musculoskeletal, and heart benefits due to improved blood circulation, digestive wellbeing, and more. 

Our Soothe membership plans are very popular because of this – people sign up to save money, but then keep the membership over time because they see how it’s helping their health and wellness.

AR: How does personal branding (for the company/therapist) play into the services you provide? 

JE: If we are talking about the therapist’s brand visibility, we enable providers to include things like their name, bio, and other information that can help a client choose whom they would like to request an appointment with, and then make the scheduling process really easy for both parties. People trust the Soothe platform and all our company stands for, even if they know they’re obtaining the services from an independent provider. 

AR: How does data privacy come into play, if at all?

JE: Soothe takes privacy very seriously. We don’t currently collect any HIPAA-regulated information and we comply with all GDPR and CCPA rules. Even beyond the regulated data, a lot of our customers are busy professionals or celebrities who require discretion. We have tight controls on our systems and operations to ensure everyone can have a great, safe, and secure experience.

Regardless of the form of treatment you find, it’s important both you and your provider wear a mask at all times during the massage, even when facing down. The general rule of thumb, according to Fichtenbaum, is getting your massage, rather than walking into a massage studio. But if you have to, stick with the smaller studios, where there are fewer people around.