“The problem that we are setting out to solve is that we live in a world where the incumbent healthcare system is at best not built for [the LGBTQ] community, but more often than not, is discriminatory and lacks expertise about the differentiated medical needs that we have,” Liana Douillet Guzmán, CEO of Folx Health, said in a recent interview.
Her company claims to be the first virtual care provider designed by and for the medical needs of the LGBTQ community. On Wednesday, it closed a $30 million Series B financing round led by 7wireVentures, bringing the company’s total funding to date to roughly $60 million. Polaris, Define and Bessemer Venture Partners also participated in the funding round.
Folx also announced that Lee Shapiro, managing partner at 7wireVentures and former Livongo Health CFO, will join its board of directors.
The startup was launched in 2020 to provide affirming and inclusive care to LGBTQ people at scale, as healthcare providers often lack expertise and training on how to care for the community’s unique medical needs, Douillet Guzmán pointed out. She said more than half of LGBTQ people have experienced discrimination from their healthcare provider.
In fact, Folx recently conducted a survey that found 71% of LGBTQ people actively avoided seeking care due to fear of discrimination, according to Douillet Guzmán.
To remedy this problem, Folx provides virtual primary care services by a network of clinicians who are trained to care for LGBTQ community members. The direct-to-consumer platform also offers a hormone replacement therapy subscription for members of the transgender community, as well as access to PrEP medication to prevent HIV in those at risk of contracting it.
The platform has “close to 10,000” users across nearly 50 states, Douillet Guzmán said. She added Folx is working with employers and payers to get its services covered, but users currently receive care under a self-pay model.
With its new influx of funds, the startup is launching new services, including clinician-led support groups. The first of these groups will focus on LGBTQ fertility and family planning, which is an area for which Folx members were clamoring for more resources. Douillet Guzmán, who is a lesbian, said it was difficult to find inclusive family planning resources when going through her own IVF journey.
“One of the things we’ve heard loud and clear across the board is that people are really at a loss for what fertility and family building looks like for our community,” she said. “I think a lot of what’s out there is very focused on cisgender heterosexual couples who are infertile. That was certainly my experience when I went through IVF.”
Kate Steinle, Folx’s chief clinical officer, has expertise in what family planning can look like for queer people, so she is leading the support group. These virtual support courses will be four to six weeks long.
While there are certainly incumbent telehealth providers that are working to offer more affirming and inclusive healthcare services, Douillet Guzmán contends that Folx is the only startup that offers end-to-end primary care tailored to the LGBTQ community. With that in mind, she said the company’s only true competitors are the LGBTQ-focused health clinics that are located throughout the country, usually in large cities.
“I want to tip my hat to the incredible work that clinics across the country have been doing for many, many years ,” Douillet Guzmán said. “I think the differentiator here is that we’re able to provide it at scale — often in the safety of someone’s home — for those who wouldn’t potentially have access to this care otherwise just because of where they are geographically.”
While they may not offer end-to-end primary care, there are other startups that offer healthcare services for LGBTQ patients. For example, Plume provides gender-affirming care for the transgender community and Pride Counseling, matches patients with queer-competent therapists. Additionally, Included Health provides benefits navigation services for LGBTQ employees.
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