Carolyn Witte is the Co-Founder and CEO of Tia, a New York City based modern gynecology and wellness practice designed to personalize and integrate a holistic approach to omen’s healthcare. Designed to be a one-stop-shop for female health, Tia opened their first clinic in Flatiron in the Spring of 2019, with plans to expand in the coming months.
Tim: Tell us a little bit about how Tia came to be, and what inspired you and Felicity to found the company in the first place
Carolyn: Tia really started out of my own and Felicity’s frustrations with the healthcare system as patients. We very much approached the space from a patient-first point of view, having gone through our own really frustrating diagnosis process in our early twenties that exposed to us everything that was fundamentally broken about women’s healthcare – specifically the fragmentation, lack of personalization, and, something that we talk a lot about: lack of soul in healthcare. It’s been quite a journey over the past two years taking our patient experience and marrying that with the provider reality, and really saying, ‘well, what would healthcare really look like in design, with the female experience at the center of it?’ That’s what Tia has been really about.
Tim: And for those that don’t know, what is Tia?
Carolyn: Tia is a lot of things. We are not a clinic with an app, or an app with a clinic, but at our core: the next-gen women’s platform fundamentally changing the way women interact with the healthcare system at large. What that means in practice is we build all sorts of products, tools, and services, from our personal private women’s health advisor app to our first brick and mortar Tia clinic here in New York City. Everything we do or build is designed to help women be their own patient advocate and get meaningfully better healthcare.
Tim: Women’s health is having a bit of a moment right now – and sensibly, as depending on where you get your stats, upwards of 78% of women are the primary healthcare decision-maker in their household; what do you attribute the explosion of companies focused on the space to?
Carolyn: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think there’s a tension between this realization that women spend 80% of the healthcare dollars and therefore are “a niche market,” as this market used to be described as. With the other side of the coin, which says that that women have – we believe whole heartedly at Tia – fundamentally different, distinct healthcare needs than men; and therefore, necessitate their own product experiences and healthcare offerings designed with them at the center of it. As we say at Tia, ‘women aren’t small men,’ and the healthcare system at large has all too often treated women as such.
Tim: What was the biggest challenge that you faced in getting Tia started?
Carolyn: Where to start. That continues to be a challenge we face: We’ve always had a really big, bold, grandiose vision for building a new model of women’s care from the ground up. The question of where to start, sequencing and prioritization has always been the challenge. We started as building an information-only platform, and quickly learned that we couldn’t really achieve our goals, or our vision, without getting into care delivery ourselves, which was the next chapter. I think now the challenge continues to be what are the next, and the next, and the next chapters, and the right sequencing to really enable us to achieve our long-term vision?
Tim: Along those lines, how do you differ from other women’s health providers?
Carolyn: First and foremost, we’re not just a women’s healthcare provider. We’re a technology platform at the core. In many ways we’re three businesses in one: a technology platform, a clinical services business, and a direct-to-consumer brand. And Tia’s magic is really at the intersection of brand experience, technology, and best-in-class clinical care.
Tim: When you talk about that technology, what role does it play in your view in revamping the patient experience that you’re providing?
Carolyn: We view technology as the tool that’s not only about revamping the patient experience,but changing the provider one. I think the biggest realization for me as the founder, who approached the space originally from a patient-first point of view, was realizing that, to fix women’s health for women, you need to fix it for providers too. So we view technology as a bridge that can serve as filling the gap or the void between patients and providers, and build a new relationship-based model of care for the modern healthcare system that is missing today at a time when healthcare is becoming more fragmented, more transactional, and less human. And we use innovative technology to fill that void.
Tim: So what are your plans for expansion?
Carolyn: Big plans. Expansion for us looks like an array of different, sort of, chess moves, opening up more Tia flagship clinics in other cities around the country. It’s been amazing to see how in demand this new care model is that we’re building since we opened our first Tia clinic 3 months ago – expanding our scope of practice beyond core gynecology and basic primary care. We found that women want literally everything from Tia – from fertility to mental health to OB – and the challenge of where and how to expand our scope is a big one. And the third thing is scaling our technology platform through other providers is something we are starting to think through as a way to reach more women at scale and really productize that part.
Tim: At this point, what keeps you up at night?
Carolyn: Sequencing. The same thing that has always kept me up at night, and doing the right things in the right order. I think we have worked really hard to get where we are, and validate it a lot and prove that women and providers really want this new care model, and that they trust Tia, which is the ultimate thing we’ve earned. Their trust is hard to earn and easy to lose; and thoughtful scale, thoughtful sequencing, and expansion is the key thing to fix up here and what keeps me up at night.
Tim: Remind me, how far into this are you? How long have you been at this?
Carolyn: Two and a half years.
Tim: Which is kind of a lifetime in a startup, right? What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning?
Carolyn: Aligning incentives among all the different players in the healthcare system is key to success. You can’t just build for patients. You can’t just build for providers. You can’t just build for payers. You have to build for everybody. And figuring what that thing is that fulfills everybody’s needs and wants is the secret.
Tim: Hmm, that’s a good one. I like that one. Great thought to end with. Thanks Carolyn!