The current health care system is not built to support queer patients.
One study from 2019 found one in six adults avoid the health care system due to distrust and discrimination, making it hard for patients and their families to properly assess the impacts of gender-affirming services, fertility care or family planning.
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Boston-based FOLX Health, a telehealth platform focused on comprehensive care for the LGBTQIA+ community, is one of a few startups entering a market for queer health care. The startup announced on Wednesday it raised $30 million to scale its platform. Funding was led by 7wire Ventures with participation from firms like Foresite Capital, bringing total funding to $59.4 million, according to Crunchbase data.
FOLX Health launched in 2020 to offer a suite of virtual primary care and queer-specific health care services from specialized doctors. Earlier this year the company launched an employer benefits product that would allow companies to offer specific services like hormone replacement therapy, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, which reduces the chance of getting HIV) and sex health consults.
The company also offers virtual support groups, community forums and resources for parents of queer or trans children.
Primary care is getting niche
Navigating the health care system requires comprehensive and holistic care, but it never quite shakes out that way. And the ramifications are worse for patients who are queer, poor or not white.
Doctors and specialists are often siloed from each other, and a single patient will have bits and pieces of a complicated health history scattered across physicians who can’t compare notes. Doctors, inundated with appointments, can’t glean information about a patient’s mental health, religious background or lifestyle that may impact their ability to follow through on orders through a 15-minute appointment.
Young Americans are increasingly choosing to not have a primary care provider, a key pillar by which most are expected to use to navigate the rest of the health care system.
Overall, there are only a handful of startups catering to queer health. Funding so far in 2022 has reached $80 million for companies like Plume, which raised $24 million earlier this year to offer gender-affirming telehealth services for transgender patients.
But FOLX is an example of primary care startups moving into the primary care space to provide comprehensive care in niche segments. Health in Her HUE, a New York-based telehealth platform, connects Black women to doctors that understand their health and lifestyle environments. Caraway and Kiira provide health care services specifically for college-age women.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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