Far too many women in the United States have trouble accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Many have had the uncomfortable experience of asking their school nurse, a primary care physician, a counselor, or even a pediatrician for birth control options, while many more have faced significant socioeconomic barriers, such as financial hardship or trouble finding qualified providers in their area. In fact, over 20 million women in the U.S. live in contraceptive deserts where the number of qualified health centers offering a full range of contraceptive methods isn’t sufficient to serve the need in a community.
Navigating the healthcare system is a challenging feat, but once you add stigmas, privacy concerns, transportation limitations, lack of insurance, out-of-pocket costs, or countless other barriers to the equation, it can feel impossible.
Twentyeight Health is working hard to change this narrative.
With a name inspired by the average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle, Twentyeight Health is bringing access, convenience, and affordability to sexual and reproductive health care. Co-founders Bruno Van Tuykom and Amy Fan understood, long before the pandemic, that digital health care was not only the future, but the only way to reach certain populations and achieve this goal.
Since its founding, our national partner Twentyeight Health has been accelerating quickly and is not slowing down any time soon.
Serving the underserved is the mission
When Van Tuykom and Fan founded the company in 2018, they had one clear goal in mind: to improve access to reproductive and sexual health for underserved communities.
Both founders recognized the challenges of the healthcare system and the importance of making patient-centered care the center of their business. This has not only become their North Star, but the driving force behind their team’s work.
Since starting the company just three years ago, Fan and Van Tuykom have worked hard to reach low-income populations and communities of color, which are traditionally underserved. These efforts have paid off, resulting in over 50 percent of their users being on Medicaid and 58 percent identifying as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC).
Twentyeight Health’s convenient and affordable offerings make it easy for users to access reproductive and sexual health services from the comfort of their homes, where they can maintain privacy and discretion. It also eases the burden on women who cannot take off time from work, afford childcare, or access reliable transportation to visit the doctor. Twentyeight Health’s offerings - including contraceptives, STI prevention and treatments, pre and postnatal care - can be delivered to a patient’s home. The platform also offers ongoing care and unlimited follow-ups through direct messaging or audio consultations with licensed providers.
Although Twentyeight Health’s platform is virtual first, the goal is not to eliminate in-person care, Van Tuykom told me, but to support it. Twentyeight Health leverages integrated referrals with their partners to connect users to providers for essential visits like wellness exams, pap smears, and prenatal visits.
A rise in demand leads to greater innovation
There is no denying the negative impact of COVID-19 on women’s health. Many women have canceled routine screenings, delayed care, lost coverage, or changed medication doses.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Survey, 38 percent of women have skipped preventative health services during the pandemic. Among them, 46 percent reported being in fair or poor health. And eight percent of women ages 18-25 and seven percent of women ages 26-35 have delayed or have not been able to get birth control.
According to Dan Cloutier, Twentyeight Health’s Head of Business Development, the need for sexual and reproductive care increased while these barriers have widened, leading to an increased demand for telehealth services. Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, Twentyeight Health has taken this opportunity to broaden its reach and expand its offerings.
As of January 2022, Twentyeight Health is proudly serving 31 states, as well as Washington D.C. In addition, the company now offers its full platform in both English and Spanish, including doctor-vetted sexual education content, physician interactions, customer support, and all user communications.
“Offering a seamless end-to-end experience in Spanish is critical to our mission. Even if you have some language proficiency, you are more likely to engage with healthcare in your primary language and it is easier to reach people when they feel culturally supported,” Van Tuykom said. For this reason, Twentyeight Health will continue to expand its offering to support additional languages in the near future.
Partnerships drive better health outcomes and lower costs
Since launching its platform, Twentyeight Health has had a significant impact on access to healthcare, with 63% of its users reporting that they did not have access to contraceptives prior to signing up for the service. A key part of their approach to increase access has been establishing relationships with more than 50 different partners across healthcare brands and community organizations which has been instrumental in promoting its services to hard-to-reach communities. In fact, 70 percent of Twentyeight Health’s targeted marketing is focused on these partners and their unique populations.
Twentyeight Health also builds strategic partnerships with health plans and health systems and can help drive significant cost savings, expand access to sexual and reproductive care, and, most importantly, improve population health outcomes for their members and patients. Cloutier reports that Twentyeight Health can help its partners save up to $2,680 per user, resulting in a 22x return on investment.
These savings are driven by avoiding costs associated with unintended pregnancies and costly in-person visits, providing earlier access to prenatal care to support high-risk pregnancies, promoting the use of equal outcome but lower-cost medications, and improving health equity for members.
Twentyeight Health will continue to focus its efforts on facilitating comprehensive, longitudinal healthcare for underserved populations.
Sexual and reproductive care is just the beginning
Twentyeight Health is paving a new path for women’s health. While there are many healthcare solutions for women, very few are focused on underserved populations and rural communities where health access is more limited or nonexistent. This work is complex, regulated and often too difficult for most companies to tackle, but Twentyeight Health is not like most companies.
"We have a patient-centric design and leverage co-developing sessions, user surveys, and continuous feedback to fully understand our users' pain points to help find solutions for access problems along the way,” said Van Tuykom.
When asked about competition, Van Tuykom welcomes the challenge. “Seeing an increasing level of innovation is great for the space,” he said. “We have something very unique and welcome additional companies and innovations and support new ways to engage and make care affordable."
Every year, Twentyeight Health’s products and offerings are growing – and looking forward to an exciting 2022. Already the team is planning to expand their services to offer additional product offerings across the entire women’s health journey from contraception to STI prevention, testing, and treatment, to pre- and postnatal care, all the way to menopause. They will also be accelerating their payer and provider partnerships to support quality reporting, reduce costs, and achieve better health outcomes for members and patients.
This may be your first time hearing about Twentyeight Health, but it won’t be the last. Follow their work here or contact Dan Cloutier, Twentyeight Health’s Head of Business Development at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.