Folx Health launched out of stealth mode in December 2020 as a telehealth platform designed specifically for the queer and transgender communities.
The company has tapped a new CEO to lead its continued strong growth as it eyes expansion to all 50 states.
Marketing and operations executive Liana Douillet Guzmán is taking the reins at Folx Health as the startup grows its services to more members, resulting in robust revenue growth in the form of double-digit percentages month over month.
Douillet Guzmán said she has a passionate interest in Folx Health's mission to provide a new standard of healthcare that's built to serve LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and ally) people. "The mission spoke to me," she told Fierce Healthcare in an interview.
"We have big ambitions. We want to become the preeminent healthcare platform for our community, but we also want to change the healthcare industry as a whole in the process," she said.
Liana Douillet Guzmán
Folx combines access to a specialized network of queer and trans clinicians with a tailored focus on clinical offerings that are typically marginalized in traditional health settings. The startup focuses on providing patients end-to-end virtual primary care including treatment plans for gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy PrEP and erectile dysfunction along with other services.
“What A.G. and the Folx Health team have accomplished in a short period of time is inspiring. As a lesbian and latina, I understand the unique challenges underserved communities face - and not just in healthcare,” said Douillet Guzmán.
In a statement, Breitenstein said Douillet Guzmán brings "critical skills and experience" Folx needs to reach its community and drive the conversation about how to reshape our notion of health and healthcare. "She has driven hyper-growth in both the direct-to-consumer and employer markets as both an operational and marketing lead," Breitenstein said.
Douillet Guzmán most recently served as the chief marketing officer of Skillshare, an online learning community for creatives.
Prior to joining Skillshare, she served as chief operating officer of Blockchain. Under her leadership at Blockchain, the company’s users grew from 4 million to 40 million within two years. She also spent nine years at Axoim, an alternative legal services provider.
Douillet Guzmán acknowledged she has a steep learning curve as she comes to the industry without healthcare experience. "I think there's real power with coming in with fresh eyes. I can ask questions that might help us think differently about how we deliver services to our community," she said.
"I also bring experience with industries that are very precedent-bound and incredibly regulated. I have been able to help disruptors grow in those spaces. Part of what I bring to the table is the experience of finding new ways to do things in very archaic systems to move forward."
Douillet Guzmán said Folx plans to continue to invest in its offerings and expand from 35 states to every state in the country by the first half of 2022.
Folx aims to be an end-to-end platform for the LGBTQIA+ community and is eyeing new services including mental health and fertility support.
"We're also looking to expand into new partnership models. We started working with big-name employers to provide affirming care for the LGBTQIA+ community."
Removing barriers to care
Folx is tapping into a community that historically has been underserved in the healthcare market. About 4.5% of U.S. adults—11 million people—identify as LGBT; about 1.4 million people identify as transgender. Among the 18-34 population, about 20% identify as LGBTQ, according to a GLAAD survey.
Queer and transgender patients face steep barriers to getting quality healthcare. The majority of transgender patients (70%) experience discrimination when they seek care, leading nearly half (44%) to avoid the emergency department when they need acute care, according to a 2018 study.
"This is a community that has for far too long suffered at the hands of a system that is, in the best-case scenario, indifferent, and in the worst-case scenario, abusive," Douillet Guzmán said. "This is an opportunity to provide individualized care for this community. Our biggest challenge is how do we take our vision for the future of health and make it work in the context of a system that is hard to shift and modernize."
There are a growing number of digital health companies tackling health issues for the LGBTQIA+ community. Queerly is an online marketplace where members of these communities can connect with vetted and trained providers, telehealth tools and concierge health. Violet is a mental health care startup run by and for the LGBTQ+ community, and Plume is a digital health service focused exclusively on the transgender community that has expanded into employee benefits.
A leading virtual care company—the combination of Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand—recently acquired Included Health, a care concierge platform for the LGBTQ+ community. The company has since changed its name to Included Health.