Tia co-founders Carolyn Witte and Felicity Yost
Whether you’re a fan of the term “Femtech” or believe that it unnecessarily pigeonholes women’s health, the word sheds light on an area of healthcare that has been grossly neglected and underfunded. The fact that painkillers and Prozac have never been tested on the female physiology is but one example of the massive gender gap found in medical research. Tia understands this and wants to offer women the integrative care they need and deserve. With a fresh injection of $24.3 million in funding, the New York City-based healthcare platform plans to further scale its model of care for women, both online and offline.
“Tia’s model is built on the recognition that there is no such thing as ‘one-size-fits-all’ in healthcare,” Tia’s co-founder and CEO Carolyn Witte told me in an interview. “Female health is fundamentally distinct from men’s health and is not just about the uterus in our body.”
To her point, the number one killer of women in the U.S. isn’t pregnancy-related; it’s heart-related. In 2017, 299,578 women died of heart disease, a jaw-dropping figure that hopefully dispels the myth that women only need a doctor for their “lady parts”.
With that in mind, Witte started Tia three years ago to try and answer a key question: “How do women think about their health?” The startup launched with a WebMD-type app where women could ask questions about their sexual and reproductive health. Witte says Tia had more than 200,000 one-on-one conversations with women in the first few months of launching the app.
“Even though we initially launched as an information platform, women were increasingly trying to use Tia as their doctor,” Witte said. “They really trusted us to become their healthcare provider.”
A Custom-Made Clinic For Women
With help from her co-founder, Felicity Yost, Witte grew the app into an end-to-end women’s healthcare platform and launched the first physical Tia Clinic in NYC in early 2019. By providing a fully integrated and integrative care for women, Tia now serves 3,000 female patients in NYC through their in-clinic and virtual care services.
Women pay $15 per month to become a Tia member and have access to unlimited messaging with the care team. Once a member, women can use their health insurance for same-day appointments with an in-house gynecologist, primary care provider, acupuncturist and licensed clinical therapist. This is one of the major benefits of joining Tia: having all of your medical and wellness data centralized into one medical record to which you have full access. So if a woman has repeated yeast infections, for example, the gynecologist might consult with the acupuncturist to recommend an integrative approach to diagnosis and treatment.
The healthcare system vs. Tia’s integrative care model
“Health outcomes are not a byproduct of any one thing,” said Witte. “From epigenetics to lifestyle and pre-existing conditions, there can be several causes at the root of an illness or affliction.”
In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Tia has added several layers of care to its service, including virtual care.
“Our core hypothesis has been stress-tested,” said Witte. “We didn’t have to close but chose to temporarily shut down our clinic and go 100% virtual.”
Mental Health Needs
Despite the clinic being closed since March 16, the Tia team has been inundated with demands over the past few weeks. From panic attacks to job losses and COVID-related concerns, mental health has been at the forefront of patient needs, prompting Tia to roll out two new services: Video consultations for gynecology and primary care consults, and a virtual behavioral health program where patients have access to both a licensed Tia therapist and a Tia physician who can prescribe medication if needed.
“We’ve seen a 400% increase in behavioral health-related issues since the COVID outbreak,” said Witte. “With the regulatory landscape changing overnight, we’ve implemented a new care delivery system to address these pressing needs.”
Being a purely virtual clinic during a pandemic has its benefits. Maven Clinic, for example, hasn’t had to make any major adjustments as it has been an online service since it launched in 2014. The NYC-based company recently raised a whopping $45 million Series C round to further its mission of assisting women with various needs — from fertility advice to lactation consultations.
A Hip, Glossier-Type Clinic
Witte argues that having a physical location is key, however. “We asked ourselves if we at Tia could deliver the quality of care we want by being 100% online. The answer is no.”
Tia Clinic’s entrance in NYC
Kezi Ban @ Blonde Artists courtesy of Rockwell Group
Having a physical location definitely has its perks, especially when the clinic is specially designed for women. Tia’s clinic in NYC has a Glossier-meets-The-Wing kind of vibe with cool, modern art and design furniture.
Tia Clinic’s exam room
Kezi Ban @ Blonde Artists courtesy of Rockwell Group
Tia has a team of 50 employees, which includes care providers. To date, the startup has raised a total of $32 million, including this latest Series A round, which was led by Threshold Ventures. Define Ventures, ACME, Torch Capital, John Doerr, Homebrew and Compound also participated in this round.
One frontier Tia will have to cross to become the ultimate care provider for women is smart design and technology. Think smooth, comfortable speculums and cancer-screening bras to replace the drastically outdated utensils and machinery that were designed by men decades ago. Because after all, women deserve products and services that suit (and fit) their bodies.
Tia plans to re-open its clinic in NYC on June 1.