Tia is trying to reinvent women's health. We visited the startup's first clinic to get a checkup and see how it's different from a normal doctor's office.

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe reception area at Tia’s clinic in New York’s Flatiron neighbourhood.

For women’s health startup Tia, an app alone wasn’t going to cut it.

Tia was founded in 2016 by former Googler Carolyn Witte and her Cornell classmate and friend Felicity Yost. The company started as an app, which included a chatbot and symptom-tracking technology. Witte and Yost would often personally answer health-related questions that women had.

Along the way, they were joined by Tia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Stephanie McClellan, an OB/GYN who began by giving Yost and Witte advice as to what they could and couldn’t tell people through the app. She went on to advise them on what Tia should do to redefine healthcare. That would mean going beyond an app and pulling together a physical space where women could get care.

“We couldn’t just build technology in a vacuum,” Witte said. “We needed to put it in the hands of patients and providers in a physical space.”

So in March, the team opened its first clinic in New York City.

As part of my experiment to get all of my healthcare taken care of virtually or through new models that offer more access, I picked Tia for my women’s health needs.

Since moving to New York, I’ve always had a difficult time with my appointments with gynecologists. Of all my routine healthcare visits it’s the appointment that takes the most time to go through, from waiting in the lobby to waiting in the exam room or waiting to get blood work or imaging done. Physically, it’s the most uncomfortable, though that can’t really be helped.

Because I’d felt well, I’d skipped going in 2018. I was curious to see if my visit to Tia’s clinic would be all that different.

Here’s what I found.

Tia’s initial clinic is located at 30 East 23rd Street, near Madison Square Park.

Screenshot via Google Maps

The clinic’s located on the seventh floor, accessible when stepping out of the elevator. The building was still under construction when we went.

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As soon as you walk off the elevator, you’re greeted by a reception desk.

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The name Tia is a reference to the Spanish word for aunt, alluding to the idea of having a relationship with your healthcare. To date, the company’s raised $US6 million.

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To the right is a small lobby area, which I didn’t see when I went in for my wellness visit. Instead, after signing in on a tablet, one of the women sitting behind the counter walked me to an exam room and began the exam.

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The clinic has four exam rooms. Patients can get blood work done there, as well as get ultrasound imaging. “We partnered with female artists of all types to curate every component of the space,” Witte said.

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Witte calls the glass-lined hallway the clinic’s “internet-selfie wall.” The walls have statements like “Women’s health is more than your lady parts,” drawing from some of the messaging Tia’s app uses. “People know Tia from the internet, and they come to life offline,” Witte said.

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The bathroom has a picture-worthy aesthetic as well. The mirror outlines the shape of the “Tia Power Lady” illustration that shows up throughout the office and online. “The idea is, you look at the mirror and you see the most powerful, confident version of yourself at the doctor’s office,” Witte said.

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Inside the exam room, I first spotted a pair of socks urging me to “inhale and exhale” that I could put on during my exam.

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In the exam room, I noticed that there wasn’t a computer monitor. Instead, the woman conducting my exam talked through my medical history and what had brought me in today, projecting it onto a screen via her iPad. I could also look over her shoulder to see the screen.

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Then, I changed into the robe, bedecked with the Tia power ladies. From there, the exam was similar to others I’ve done, though throughout we discussed a health question I had posed toward the start of our conversation. My provider offered me a number of options I could possibly try to see if it mitigated the problem.

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I also tried to match my breathing to the screen, which had an image of a circle expanding and contracting, meant to keep me calm during some of the more uncomfortable parts of the well-woman exam.

Lydia Ramsey/Business InsiderA guided breathing exercise during some of the more stressful bits of the exam.

About an hour after I arrived for my appointment, I was done. Headed back to the lobby area, I noticed the sale of supplements. Tia’s approach to healthcare encompasses practices like acupuncture, nutrition, and other comprehensive approaches to healthcare.

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There’s also a space at the front of the building where Tia holds events that are free to members. For instance, I was invited to a sex-tech event the clinic’s hosting later in April. Members can also sign up for workshops that cost extra, or take part in community acupuncture sessions or other activities.

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After my visit, I decided to get in touch with my healthcare provider to figure out my next steps. But when I logged back onto Tia and tried to use the messaging service to figure out what I should do next, I saw that it hadn’t launched yet. Yost said that the plan is to launch the messaging feature in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I could call the clinic to follow up, or message 1-833-CHAT-TIA.

Screenshot via Tia

So far, Tia has signed up about 800 members since launching. The company has capped its membership to deal with the high volume of follow ups and first-time appointments that have come in. Initially, the plan was to have 3,200 members in the first clinic, but Yost said they have been rethinking that.

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“The demand was bigger than we expected,” Witte said.

For the sake of reviewing the service for this article, I connected with the team at Tia to get an appointment on the books. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to use the service.

The clinic is hiring more providers (it started with just one doctor, the team’s CMO, Dr. McClellan), and going forward the hope is to make sure all new members can book a visit within the first 14 days of joining. On Tuesday, Tia put out a blog post walking through more changes it plans to make at its initial location.

Tia plans to open more clinics both in New York and around the country based on interest from app users after figuring out what works or doesn’t work in the initial site.

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