advertisement
advertisement

With telehealth startup Folx, trans people have a new option outside of mainstream healthcare

With $25 million of venture funding in hand, the company plans to bring health services designed for queer people to all 50 states.

With telehealth startup Folx, trans people have a new option outside of mainstream healthcare
[Photos: courtesy of Folx]
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Samuel K. Davis, like many trans men, has always had difficulty getting the testosterone he needs to treat his gender dysphoria. When he relocated from California to Florida during the pandemic, he encountered even more problems. Trying to get a new healthcare provider turned into a nightmare. He set up an over-the-phone appointment with a local clinic, answered questions about his health history, talked to a clinician for 10 minutes, paid $80, and then didn’t hear a word.

advertisement
advertisement

“Two months later, I received a letter from them saying they just processed my information,” Davis says. He never received any medication. For four months, he went without his prescription medications, putting him on an emotional roller coaster exacerbated by hormonal fluctuations. “I was at a point where I was like, maybe this just isn’t supposed to happen.”

By chance he came across a post on the Instagram account @transguysupply. It mentioned a new online service called Folx Health that promised to connect trans adults with health services for free, at least initially. Through Folx Health’s virtual intake process, he filled out information about his health history. The platform matched him with a clinician named Kate. A week and a half later he received injectable testosterone in the mail.

“I’m not gonna lie—I cried,” Davis says.

advertisement
advertisement

Being queer and trying to get quality healthcare can feel like an exercise in futility. Going to a traditional primary care provider is a gamble, because there’s no way to know ahead of time whether a given doctor will be sensitive to queer health issues or completely invalidating. This is doubly the case for trans health. While some cities have nonprofit health centers catering specifically to the queer community, these centers often don’t have the resources to keep up with demand. The need for queer healthcare is great, and the options for care are few. Folx Health is launching its telehealth services to reach this historically poorly attended community in a design-forward way.

[Photo: courtesy of Folx]
The company has raised $25 million of venture funding in a Series A round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. “There are many verticals and specialities that are largely untapped and underestimated by the venture community,” says Morgan Cheatham, an investor at Bessemer Venture Partners. “We’ve seen the power of direct-to-consumer healthcare experiences. We’ve seen the opportunity to serve the unique needs of a specific population—to me this was a no-brainer.” He notes that the queer community is much bigger than investors often realize, comprising as much as 10% of the U.S. population.

In its initial incarnation, Folx Health will be offering online consultations with doctors and home-delivered hormone replacement therapy prescriptions. Patients will pay a monthly fee for access to care starting at $59 per month, with the cost varying based on their treatment plan. It will also offer a variety of online health resources.

advertisement

[Photo: courtesy of Folx]
“We’re about to launch what we call ‘The Library,’ which is a set of resources that bridge the gap from free-for-all subreddits, where you can get all kinds of information about what you can do, to the Mayo Clinic website, where you go if you want to go read medical literature,” says Folx founder and CEO A.G. Breitenstein. “We’ll have a balance between really well clinically vetted information, but presented in a way that’s accessible and usable for folks.”

The health library and hormone replacement therapy are just the beginning of the company’s healthcare line. Soon, Folx will offer treatment for erectile dysfunction, sexually transmitted infection, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and the ability to take lab samples at home. It’s part of a larger plan to support queer sexual health and wellness as well as help queer people start families. Already the company is live in 12 states, including California, Florida, and New York. Breitenstein says she plans to launch the service in all 50 states by the end of the year.

The company is currently operating on a cash-pay, subscription model. However, Breitenstein is thinking about how to work with insurance companies in a way that’s tailored to the Folx model of care.

advertisement

There’s good reason to think that insurers would be interested in covering a product such as Folx Health. Aetna recently expanded its health insurance coverage to include breast augmentation as a gender re-affirming surgery. The insurer now covers gonadectomy, breast removal, breast augmentation, and genital reconstruction as treatments for gender dysphoria. The move indicates that Aetna, and possibly other insurers, are finally considering the value of providing quality services for communities often left out of traditional healthcare.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

More