Women's health startup Tia has inked its largest health system partnership to date as it plans to team up with Cedars-Sinai to open up clinics in the Los Angeles area.
It marks the third health system partnership for Tia, a startup building what it calls a "modern medical home for women."
Creating a new standard of care for women requires building bridges with leading health systems, Carolyn Witte, co-founder and CEO of Tia, told Fierce Healthcare.
"Our medical home model really is about integrating women's whole health for their whole lives—physical, mental and reproductive healthcare and delivering that in a hybrid experience that's virtual and in-person to meet women where they're at. Our core focus is on filling in the primary care and preventative care gaps facing women as seeing that is the crux of the root diagnosis of a healthcare system that's failing women," Witte said. "But what happens when women have needs that go beyond our scope? That's where our model with health systems comes into play."
The two organizations aim to expand access to comprehensive women’s healthcare in a market with major primary care and OB-GYN shortages, she noted.
"We'll also work together to defragment women’s health by integrating primary and specialty, virtual and in-person, and outpatient and inpatient care. With Cedars-Sinai’s unmatched commitment to clinical quality, compassion and innovation, I’m confident that we can make healthcare work better for women and our communities," she said.
Tia and Cedars-Sinai plan to serve more than 100,000 women throughout the Los Angeles region. Today, Tia opened its second Los Angeles-area clinic, in Santa Monica, in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai, following the success of its first local clinic in Silver Lake in 2021.
The two organizations plan to open additional clinics this year in Pasadena, Studio City and Culver City.
Tia has grown rapidly in the past two years. The startup inked a partnership with CommonSpirit Health, which operates 137 hospitals and more than 1,000 clinics, to launch Tia-branded women's health clinics. The first brick-and-mortar clinic opened in October 2021 in Phoenix with planned expansions in Arizona and other CommonSpirit markets over the next few years.
Tia landed its second major health system collaboration with UCSF Health in San Francisco last year. UCSF Health plans to collaborate with Tia to develop a new network of clinically integrated clinics for women in the Bay Area.
Research shows that almost half of women nationwide do not have a stable relationship with a primary care physician for routine preventive care and that many women have delayed basic healthcare services during the pandemic.
Started in 2017, Tia’s model includes virtual and in-person services, fusing primary care, mental health and gynecological care with wellness services like acupuncture and pelvic floor physical therapy in one integrated experience. The company is now in four markets—New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco.
The need to expand access to primary care and reproductive health services for women has become more imperative in a post-Roe world, Witte noted. Following the Supreme Court ruling in June 2022 that ended federal abortion protections, women are now facing a "triple threat" with a lack of primary care, a mental health care crisis and a reproductive health care crisis, she said.
"The partnership conversations at Cedars started pre-Dobbs, but the importance of filling in these care gaps facing women in LA, which has the biggest OB-GYN shortage in the country behind only Las Vegas, on top of a primary care shortage, it's clear that this model together really addresses this 'triple threat' facing women," she noted.
Last year, Tia expanded into fertility services and also now offers medication abortions via virtual visits in New York and California.
Witte recalls the moment when she learned about the leaked draft opinion revealing the Supreme Court’s likely plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. "I was in our San Francisco flagship clinic with the chair of OB-GYN at UCSF and the mayor of San Francisco announcing our UCSF partnership. It was a very eerie moment because that partnership was really rooted in expanding reproductive healthcare services in partnership with UCSF, who's been one of the biggest leaders in the country when it comes to research around reproductive health, medication abortion and virtual care. It was a huge win for women of the Bay Area and then this massive setback was happening at the same time," she said. "Now, ten months later we're announcing this massive partnership with Cedars-Sinai, who, like UCSF, shares our commitment to furthering access to women's whole health needs physical, mental and reproductive health care."
Women have long been sidelined by a healthcare system that treats them as body parts or narrow reproductive life stages instead of whole people, according to Tia executives. This has led to major primary care gaps for women on their fertility journey, leaving many without prevention-focused care or mental health support.
Cedars-Sinai will provide specialty care for patients through its network of specialty providers and inpatient services. Cedars-Sinai has distinguished itself as one of the top providers for women’s healthcare in a number of important specialties, including women’s heart health, obstetrics, women’s cancer and minimally invasive gynecological surgery. By connecting these and other programs to Tia’s comprehensive women’s primary care model, the organizations will provide Los Angeles women with coordinated and connected care, executives said.
"Cedars-Sinai and Tia share a common vision to elevate women’s healthcare by expanding access to high-quality, comprehensive care,” said Sarah Kilpatrick, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai, in a press release. “As a national leader in women’s health, we are pleased to continue elevating options for our patients. We look forward to making primary and specialty care services available to more women in the community.”
Witte noted that primary care is currently in the spotlight with retailers like CVS and Walgreens and tech giant Amazon all making moves in the space. "But it's also facing a lot of challenges in terms of the scalability of these models. There are lots of next-gen approaches to primary care that some would say aren't that differentiated. Technology is table stakes right now and convenience and access are table stakes with a race to the bottom in many ways with players like Amazon and so forth coming into primary care," she said.
She added, "Primary care is critical to bending the cost curve. You need to invest in primary care to have a chance of actually driving value in terms of improved outcomes and cost savings downstream. Everyone is clamoring to try to figure out their primary care play, health systems included. All these players are taking a "build, buy, partner" approach-- what should we build, where should we partner and what should we buy?"
As major healthcare players work out their strategies, Tia has a competitive advantage as the "only sex-specific primary care player in the market," according to Witte.
"That's a competitive advantage to acquire and engage a customer that is not being met by all the other look-alike, next-gen primary care players that serve the general population. If you're a health system like Cedars and you're trying to make a primary care bet, I think the smart health system leaders and CFOs that I talked to realize that betting on women is the smartest bet to make," she said. "Putting aside the moral imperative, it's just economics. Women are better customers. Women of reproductive age spend twice as compared to men of the same age, are engaged more and have differential needs both in a primary care and specialty care context. And, women control more than 80% of the U.S. healthcare dollars."
Witte added, "If you're betting on primary care as an acquisition pathway or as a value-based, bend-the-cost-of-care pathway, betting on women's specific primary care is a differentiation against the other models out there and a smart economic investment that drives higher ROI [return on investment]."
The partnership with Cedars-Sinai goes beyond co-branding several women's health clinics.
Two organizations designed the partnership as a close clinical and technical integration with shared clinical leadership between Cedars-Sinai and Tia. Cedars-Sinai medical directors and specialists will work hand-in-hand with Tia medical directors and providers, executives said.
"This partnership is anchored on shared clinical vision and quality above all else. Getting Cedars' stamp of approval on Tia's model says a lot about the kind of care that we're providing," Witte noted.
The two organizations co-developed clinical protocols and care coordination to ensure consistency between primary and specialty care and will focus on measuring and improving quality metrics. Technical integration between the two organizations will enable shared clinical notes, medical records, care coordination, and quality data reporting, executives said.
Tia and Cedars-Sinai will use patient data to measure improved health outcomes for women in the LA area.
"We want to look at 'Do we together make women healthier?' We want to show that prevention-focused primary care can do what we believe we're here to do which is make women healthier at the end of the day," she said.
Tia and Cedars-Sinai are both committing capital to fund the expansion of the women's health clinics, she noted.