It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not totally freak out every time you scroll through the morning news — especially as a woman. From Missouri considering making it legal to fire women who use birth control to the Senate healthcare repeal bill that just won’t quit, it feels like we’re constantly bombarded with political and cultural messaging telling us we’re not in control of our bodies (and if we are now, we won’t be for long). We know how stressful and disheartening it can be, but we’re thankful for birth control advocates like Sophia Bush and entrepreneurs like Carolyn Witte who are committed to using their platforms to help empower, educate, and energize women when it comes to taking control of their own health. In fact, Witte has recently launched Ask Tia, a mobile app designed to act as a woman’s private digital health assistant. To learn more about this revolutionary (and, honestly, pretty fun) app, we chatted with Witte herself.
Brit + Co: Who is Tia, exactly? Are we talking to a bot or an IRL person when we use the app?
Carolyn Witte: Today, Tia is part-machine, part-human-powered, built with doctors and designed for millennial women. In practice, what this means is the vast majority of the time if you ask a question, the bot (or computer) will answer. Because Tia is still in her infancy, if you ask a question she doesn’t understand yet, it’s sent to one of the Tia “Wing Women” — human health educators trained in sexual and reproductive health — who are there to give your question some extra TLC. We strategically don’t play any of those frustrating “do I understand you?” guessing games to ensure a high-quality user experience.
Importantly, Tia is private and anonymous; the only identifiable piece of information we have about you is your phone number. Whether in “bot” mode or “Wing Woman” mode, you can feel at ease that you are communicating in total privacy.
Lastly, while we provide personalized, user-friendly health information about a range of reproductive and sexual health care issues, we do not provide medical guidance. If what you’re dealing with requires a doctor, Tia will refer you to a medical provider (never without asking you first!) who is better suited to provide you with quality care and get you treatment if necessary.
B+C: What sort of health concerns is Tia best at addressing?
CW: Tia’s “superpower” is making complicated, misunderstood, and often taboo topics less complicated. For example, she’s a pro at helping you figure out if you should get an IUD (and if the hormonal or non-hormonal kind is your jam), what an “abnormal” Pap smear actually means, and what to do if you missed your birth control pill (hint-hint: It depends on a whole lot of factors, like where in your cycle you are, how many pills you missed, etc.). Tia can also track your cycle and symptoms, send you birth control reminders, and find you doctors nearby in your insurance network.
Most importantly, Tia never makes a decision for you or tells you what to do. Consider her a trusted, reliable resource that gives you personalized information so that you can make an independent and informed decision for your own body and life — with confidence.
B+C: Does Tia track health concerns over time? Somehow, decades later, our periods (and ensuing symptoms) always come as a surprise.
CW: Yes! One of the coolest things about Tia is she learns you and gets smarter the more you use her. She’s a pro at remembering stuff that we often forget — say, when you got that IUD inserted, or what days last cycle you were crazy stressed out — and uses that intel to help you take proactive measures to manage your health.
Additionally, Tia is all about contextual history. We intentionally designed the product to be a single, ongoing “thread,” so you can reference back to old messages or information shared to take action on that later — just like a texting convo with your best girlfriend.
B+C: Honestly, Tia is such a great idea (and feels like a long time coming!). What made you decide to create the app?
CW: I started Tia in part to solve my own pain point of not being able to find the right birth control. When we live in a world where everything is personalized, it seems crazy to me that something as central to many female lives as birth control lacks any personalization whatsoever.
Not only are people “guessing” about their birth control, they are guessing about so many other parts of their healthcare experience. Tia aims to solve this guesswork problem by bringing much-needed personalization — paired with compassion and a whole lot of sass — into a new model of care centered around the typical female experience.
B+C: Tia’s mission is all about empowering women to make the best decisions for their body, which feels necessary and pertinent in today’s political climate. Can you talk a little about how you hope Tia can contribute to this era of empowerment?
CW: Choice is a “loaded” word, but an important word for me personally as a founder and very much at the core ethos of Tia. At a time when women’s health faces so many threats, we believe our mission to help women exercise choice in their healthcare decisions, big and small, is more important than ever.
In many ways, I think choice has been politicized because it’s being used the wrong way… there’s a semantic problem where all too often, we use “choice” and “decision” interchangeably, when in fact, they are very different.
In our view, choice is a principle, not an action; it’s an inviolable right that all people should be able to exercise in their healthcare decisions. A decision is the act of making a choice. You can disagree with someone’s decision, but not their right to have a choice in the matter.
As both a product and a company, we aim to help women recognize this important distinction and empower women to feel ownership over the decisions they make for their own bodies and lives.
Would you use a private digital health assistant? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know what you think of Tia!
(Photos via Getty)