Tia CEO and founder Carolyn Witte on using tech for reproductive health education

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Carolyn! Can you tell us a little bit how and why you came to found Tia and your latest project The Vagina Benefits?

I started Tia in large part to solve my own frustrations with the healthcare system that I feel is not designed to serve women’s unique healthcare needs. It’s fragmented, highly transactional, and over-indexed on treatment vs. prevention and education. When you couple these pain points with the taboo nature of reproductive and sexual health, it’s no surprise that all too often, women are making decisions about their health from a place of fear, anxiety, shame or confusion instead of confidence.

At the highest level, Tia aims to reimagine reproductive health from the ground up with a big, bold, sex-positive brand that celebrates our right as women to our own bodies and own our choices.

As for the Vagina Benefits, the idea first came from seeing the sheer anxiety and confusion so many Tia users have about their basic healthcare, and specifically, the cost of care. In the 200,000 conversations we’ve had through the Tia women’s health advisor app we launched in June, we’ve seen firsthand that women all-too-often don’t go to the doctor because they don’t know what it will cost and fear not being able to afford it — even for IUDs and preventive health services like pap smears that are covered 100% by insurance plans.

When we learned that 1 in 5 millennial women are uninsured right now, and that uninsured women are less likely to get preventive health services like pap smears or STI tests, it clicked for us that we had to paint a picture about why women (or as we prefer to say, people with vaginas) have fundamentally different — and more frequent — healthcare needs than people who don’t and how insurance coverage is the key to getting better care. Failing to recognize this anatomical reality has real implications for women’s health and our wallets.

How did you and your team tackle the complexities of Vagina Benefits to develop a product that is both informative and easy to use?

We believe Tia’s “superpower” is making the complicated mess of healthcare less complicated. Whether that’s explaining what an abnormal pap smear really means, or what the Trump administration’s rollback of the federal birth control mandate actually means for the cost of your birth control, “playing translator” is what Tia is designed to do as a product, company, and brand.

Tactically speaking, our team divided and conquered on the research and design of the Vagina Benefits. With complex topics like healthcare, there’s constantly a tension between how detailed to go at the expense of simplicity. We find when we have one team in the nitty-gritty weeds and another thinking higher level about how the parts all fit together for the user, we strike the right balance.

While The Vagina Benefits’ most immediate use is during open enrollment, where do you hope to grow the project over the next few years?

While there is one time of year people can sign up for health insurance, the need to understand what your healthcare rights are and what healthcare costs you doesn’t go away. Outside of open enrollment, we hope women use The Vagina Benefits to learn what their healthcare rights are and get equipped to demand the care they deserve. More broadly speaking, we view the Vagina Benefits as the first of many efforts to spark a conversation about how insurance and healthcare must evolve to make the essential healthcare people with vaginas need more accessible.