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About Folx Health

Folx Health offers simple, hassle-free online access to prescription drugs and medical services, tailored for the LGBT community.

Folx Health Headquarter Location

One Boston Pl

Boston, Massachusetts, 02108,

United States

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Digital health industry sees growing focus on LGBTQ+ health

Jun 29, 2021

Already in 2021, LGBTQ+-focused companies have boosted their total funding to $39 million, according to Rock Health’s estimates. Photo: Carol Yepes/Getty Images A new market segment is emerging in digital health with the aim of making healthcare more inclusive and accessible for a traditionally overlooked population: the LGBTQ+ community. Prior to 2020, there weren’t any digital health companies in the U.S. exclusively focused on serving LGBTQ+ individuals that were backed by investors, according to Rock Health . That year, LGBTQ+ health startups came out of the gate and raised $9.6 million. Already in 2021, these LGBTQ+-focused companies have boosted their total funding to $39 million, according to Rock Health’s estimates. In line with the newness of this space, these funding raises have been limited to Seed and Series A rounds. Between the companies that Rock Health specifies as “LGBTQ+-minded,” those that are expanding their product and service offerings to address LGBTQ+ individuals, and “LGBTQ+-specific,” those focused solely on the needs of this community, there are four general approaches for how these companies address the LGBTQ+ care gap. The first approach involves expanding their current offerings to better address the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. Companies including Brightline, a pediatric and family behavioral health platform, and Talkspace, a teletherapy provider, have added LGBTQ+-focused support for their users. Companies like Maven Clinic and Cleo target the employee health benefits space and are expanding their coverage to encompass LGBTQ+ family-building and health needs. Others are helping connect LGBTQ+ patients with culturally competent providers with their digital care navigation platforms. These include Pride Counseling, which matches users with queer-competent virtual therapists, and Included Health, which helps users find clinicians, book appointments and help sort out benefits coverage. Finally, there are a number of digital health companies that serve as virtual care clinics for LGBTQ+ people. Plume operates a virtual platform to help members of the transgender community find health services, and Folx Health offers a Hormone Replacement Therapy plan, as well as sexual health-and-wellness services. Still, even with this growing activity, Rock Health identified a number of areas where innovation in digital health has yet to reach. It’s tracking 21 different LGBTQ+ digital health startups, most of which focus on delivering specialized care within mental health, family-building or gender-affirming care. “But LGBTQ+ folks need and deserve specialized support across all healthcare touchpoints, including preventative screenings, primary care, and chronic care management,” the authors said. In addition to the need to address the full scope of care, the report says digital health needs to expand to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ folks across all age groups, particularly in adolescents and older adults. While startups like OutCare Health and Violet offer culturally competent provider training, the report notes that there’s still room for health systems to improve LGBTQ+ care approaches. Similarly, the authors applaud the companies that are providing LGBTQ+ family benefits options but say more can be done. “While LGBTQ+ family-building benefits are an important start, there’s room to expand queer-competent care coverage to include services like HRT, specialized cancer screenings, inclusive therapy, and caregiving assistance,” the authors said. Digital health startups must also use an intersectional lens when creating products and services for the LGBTQ+ community, according to the report. Beyond their gender and sexual identities, people’s race, ethnicity, religion, disability and language all play an important role in one’s health and should be considered when providing care. WHY THIS MATTERS It’s common for LGBTQ+ individuals to face discrimination and receive suboptimal healthcare because of their gender or sexual identities. In fact, more than one-third of LGBTQ+ Americans experienced discrimination of some kind in 2020, according to a survey by the Center for American Progress . These discriminatory experiences can range from seeing a doctor who was visibly uncomfortable treating them to having a doctor be physically or verbally abusive, to being denied care. Because of this treatment, a significant portion of LGBTQ+ people delay or forgo medical care. During the pandemic, 53% of LGBTQ+ respondents delayed or avoided medical care compared to 41% of non-LGBTQ+-identifying respondents, according to a Rock Health survey . All of this culminates in overall worse health outcomes in the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk for cancer, mental illnesses and other diseases, and are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs and engage in other risky behaviors, according to the Center for American Progress. THE LARGER TREND As expressed in the Rock Health report, there are a growing number of digital health startups supporting LGBTQ+ health. Following the recent merger of Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand, the combined company scooped up Included Health in May to add LGBTQ+ care navigation tools to its virtual care platform. In terms of funding, Folx Health  and Plume both completed capital raises this February. Innovation in digital health alone won’t be enough to close LGBTQ+ care gaps, and medical educators say it’s on them to improve education and training from the very beginning to provide better care. ON THE RECORD "Growing market demand can have big implications on quality of life for LGBTQ+ individuals," the authors said. “Research suggests that inclusive healthcare experiences correlate to more frequent healthcare utilization among LGBTQ+ individuals, chipping away at one of the many dimensions of the care gap. "With more queer-competent digital health companies in market, we hope that fewer LGBTQ+ people are pushed to delay or avoid medical care altogether, or to hide their true needs during appointments." Tags:

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