At the opening of each of her clinics, there’s a moment when Carolyn Witte, the founder and chief executive officer of women’s health startup Tia, holds her breath. “We call it the ‘shoulder-drop moment,’” Witte told STAT. During those few seconds, as a patient is opening the doors to one of Tia’s offices, Witte watches for them to turn from apprehension — about the idea of a rushed meeting with a new doctor or the notion of changing into a papery gown in a cold, industrially-lit room — to comfort. Witte hopes that during that moment, when patients see the colorful, sunlit environment, they feel welcomed instead of alienated.
Witte’s efforts to create clinics welcoming to women — along with a digital platform that includes a dedicated care team and encourages face time with providers — are part of a growing movement towards inclusivity in health tech. Increasingly, companies are using design to create physical and digital health experiences that serve populations that have historically been mistreated or passed over. That might look like building a vaccination website that allows patients without high internet speeds to download informational PDFs, or coming up with a plan to connect with patients without cellphones in a medical outreach campaign.