Carolyn Witte, CEO of Tia, on Cycle Tracking, Community, & the Future of Women's Health - Blood + Milk
Carolyn Witte

Carolyn Witte, CEO of Tia, on Cycle Tracking, Community, & the Future of Women’s Health

Tia—which began as an app for tracking and better understanding your cycle and is now a physical health clinic in New York City—is on a mission to help every woman make independent and informed decisions for her own body and life, with confidence. We love the mission behind this women’s health brand, and how their team is working to revolutionize care from sterile and impersonal to the holistic, comprehensive care we all deserve. We sat down with Tia’s CEO, Carolyn Witte, to ask about launching Tia and the future of women’s healthcare.

Tia began as an app for women to spot trends and connect the dots when it comes to their own health. Speaking for myself, cycle tracking has changed my life. It’s incredible how much data I’ve collected on my own body, and how I’ve been able to use it to my advantage. I love that the Tia app tracks so much more than whether or not you’re bleeding. Can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to create this app and how it differs from similar cycle tracking apps?

The Tia app differs from a typical cycle tracking app in a few key ways: 

1: You can track more than you period

From periods to poop to stress to sex, you can track an array of cycle-related symptoms as well as lifestyle attributes that impact your mind and body. Core to our thinking here is that your period if the “5th vital sign” and when tracked in conjunction with moods and physiological attributes, we can help women become more body literate!

2: Tia tells you WHY not just WHAT!

Key to body literacy starts with awareness of what is happening in your body, which basic trackers and period predictors can help with. We go one step further and invest a lot in educational content and personalized insights that tell you WHY things are happening—and even warn you when something seems really out of whack and in need of medical care. For example, if you track spotting after getting a hormonal IUD, we will send you a personalized insight that “flags” you of the connection between spotting in the progestin IUDs like the Mirena, and give you actionable suggestions for ways to manage it.

3: Your Tia tracker connects to the Tia Clinic

We found time and time again that women would go to the doctor’s office and try (and typically fail) to get their doctors to look at their cycle trackers. Digging into this, we found that most providers did not know how to read this data, didn’t trust it, and/or didn’t have the capacity to integrate this data into their clinical workflows.

Given the importance of cycle and related symptom data to diagnosing, treating and preventing illness in women, we are keen on solving this by building the world’s first “Cycle Connected Care” platform, that connects your self-reported tracking data from the Tia app to the Tia Clinic, where you can view this data in tandem with your doctor.

You recently launched the first Tia clinic in NYC—congratulations! I’d love to hear about the road from launching an app to creating an actual gynecology and wellness practice. What were some of your biggest learnings along the way?

I first decided to start Tia after my own experience struggling to navigate the healthcare system while going through a three year long PCOS diagnosis process in my early 20s. After launching the Tia women’s health advisor app, I quickly learned that I was not alone, and many other women were struggling with similar stories. I knew that to change women’s healthcare, we needed not only to give women better health education, but deliver them better overall care. Because of these learnings I decided to open the Tia Clinic—a safe space designed to make women feel seen, heard and cared for in a transformative way; a space where you have an integrative care team that treats the whole of you, and not a disparate set of body parts; and a community and technology that extends care beyond our exam room walls.

The reason we opened in NYC first was all thanks to our users. We put it up to a vote and our app users overwhelmingly voted to see a Tia clinic in NYC. As we dug into why there was so much demand in NYC in particular, the need for more accessible, preventive women’s healthcare became strikingly clear: the average wait-time for a new patient “well-woman” exam in NYC is 26 days, though women report wait-times of up to 122 days. As a result, all too many women are forced to “choose” between the trifecta of care quality, convenience, and cost. 

Beyond the sheer demand for a modern, holistic and distinctly female care model, I’ve learned a lot about how broken the healthcare system is for providers. It’s easy as a patient to cast blame on subpar experience at the doctor’s office on the provider, but being on the other side, gives you a peek into how broken the system, the tools, the payment models are for them. This is why at Tia, we believe that to fix women’s healthcare for women, we need to fix it for providers too and aim to establish Tia as an oasis for any practitioner of women’s health, as well.

You tout “community events” among the perks of the Tia clinic. Why do you believe that community is so important to healthcare and wellbeing?

Health through community has always been a personal passion of mine. I love connecting with other women, hearing their health struggles and triumphs and bonding over a shared female experience. I’ve since learned there is real evidence to support community-based health efforts, specifically for women, who according to psychologist Shelly Taylor’s “tend and befriend” thesis, destress in groups vs. in a silo, like men.

Furthermore, we at  Tia view events and community-based workshops as a practical way to extend care beyond a 1:1 reimbursable visit, support lifestyle changes (diet, sleep, meditation, etc.) needed to see an impact in your health, and make many high-in-demand services that insurance doesn’t cover more affordable. 

I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for a doctor’s office like Tia—one that isn’t so sterile, impersonal, and honestly, kind of scary. Why do you think it’s taken so long to create a clinic that reflects the modern women it serves?

Despite the rise of femtech, women’s healthcare remains fundamentally broken in the U.S., for everyone. Consumer expectations are higher than ever; yet there is a massive OB-GYN shortage in part due to a provider burnout epidemic, leading to waitlists and a looming public health crisis. Despite rising costs, outcomes are getting worse instead of better: Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men, and depression rates are also rising, especially among young women. Cardiovascular disease is on the rise in women, and the U.S. reports the highest maternal mortality rate in the developing world. 

In sum, the current system isn’t working, and I think the world is finally waking up to the need for change… not incremental change, but a whole new healthcare model designed end-to-end and inside and out to address the specificities, complexities—and yes, beauty!—of female health.

For women outside of NYC who sadly can’t visit Tia IRL yet, do you have any recommendations for being better advocates for our health and seeking more personal, integrated care?

Yes! First off, if you are not in NYC, be sure to cast your vote for a Tia Clinic in your city. We are quickly expanding the Tia Clinic footprint and are actively looking to our community to shape our expansion.

Second, track your health! As discussed, it’s a powerful tool for body literacy. Knowing what’s “normal” and not normal for yourself is step one to advocating for yourself in a care context and getting the healthcare you deserve.

Third, if you can, screen your doctors! Get recommendations from friends and consider doing your own research on their care philosophy, their understanding of female health as distinct from male health, and the types of interventions they recommend. If you are looking for truly integrative care, you need a provider who shares your definition of what integrative whole women’s health really means. 

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