The health system failed Tia co-founder and CEO Carolyn Witte when she needed it the most.
“I went through a three-year-long diagnosis process for something called polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is actually one of the leading causes of infertility,” Witte said. “After three years of fighting the system for this diagnosis, I found myself at a fancy fertility specialist in the Upper West Side of New York and got this diagnosis. I got very little information about what it was and if I could do anything about it.”
Witte said she came away with a belief that the healthcare system was not designed for women at all. In 2017, she co-founded Tia, a women’s health-focused concierge company that uses a combination of in-person and virtual care. The New York-based company received $100 million in Series B funding in September 2021, led by Lone Pine Capital.
One of the biggest challenges with the traditional health system is that clinicians tend to treat health issues reactively rather proactively, Witte said. As an example, when Witte was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, she was only 25 and unsure if she wanted to have kids. One of the doctors she saw told her to come back to a doctor if she tried and failed to couldn’t get pregnant.
According to a survey from Kaiser Family Foundation, women are more likely than men to have their concerns dismissed by a provider. The survey found it was especially the case for women of color, younger women, those covered by Medicaid and those in poorer health.
“The experience is too transactional and it’s dehumanizing for women,” Witte said. “Getting care can be a traumatizing journey.”
Also, there is a lack of care coordination in women’s health, experts say. Kimon Angelides, CEO of FemTec Health, a women’s health platform company, said the healthcare system isn’t built for women trying to navigate from point A to point B.
“There’s a lot of wandering in the system. A lot of self searching,” Angelides said. “With many conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or even the natural progress of menopause, there aren’t many places in the system for them to understand what they’re going through. So they wander through the system looking for someone to put it into context.”
Aneesh Chopra, the president of health analytics company CareJourney and first-ever U.S. chief technology officer, said digital health services are filling out a more comprehensive picture of women’s health, particularly in maternal care. He said maternity bundles create a single, comprehensive payment for an episode of care, encouraging better coordination through prenatal, labor and delivery and postpartum.
“I am keeping my eyes open on maternity bundles that will create financial incentives to promote active engagement,” Chopra said. “I don’t know when we’ll see that at scale but I’m pretty bullish over the next 12-24 months there will be more maternity bundle deployments, which will create the fuel for women’s health companies to create a more integrated service.”