Derrick Reyes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Queerly Health. Queerly Health lives on Queerly.Health, which will be the future home of an online marketplace of LGBTQ-friendly health and wellness providers, telehealth capabilities, and concierge health services. With a background in LGBTQ health, education, and social services, and a member of the LGBTQ community themself, Derrick knows firsthand how difficult it is for LGBTQ people to access anything related to healthcare. Derrick also understands digital health’s potential to create some much needed change. Determined to carve out a space for LGBTQ people in digital health, Derrick came up with the idea for Queerly Health
and pitched it at a Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend event. Their pitch won first place and crowd favorite. Derrick also presented Queerly Health at SXSW 2019, and at the Women of Color Connecting conference at Google last week. Things have been moving fast for the new company. Now Derrick works on their startup full-time and their team is building out its online marketplace, which will launch nationwide in 2020.Recently we had a conversation with Derrick about Queerly Health, their vision for the company’s future, and their plans for Pride Month. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
dotHealth (DH): What do you want the world to know about Queerly Health?
Derrick Reyes (DR): We’re created by LGBTQ people for LGTBQ people.
Queerly Health was born out of the necessity to overcome barriers that are preventing LGBTQ people from accessing the health and wellness services we need. Our platform will give the LGBTQ community access to safe, comprehensive, and culturally competent health and wellness providers.
Many people in the LGBTQ community avoid healthcare settings or delay getting care, because they don’t feel included in many of the mainstream offerings, and worry about feeling welcome and understood. When we need a provider, we ask people within the community – “Who do you see for this? Who do you see for that?” Sometimes people look to online forums or chat groups for answers.
(DH): Can you speak to some of the barriers LGBTQ people encounter, and how Queerly will help? Do you have any stories you’d be willing to share?
(DR): There are five major barriers to LGBTQ health and wellness access that we’re currently tackling:
Cost: A lot of Americans are dealing with the high cost of healthcare. However, digital health and telemedicine are more affordable and, as a result, more accessible. A telehealth visit is around a quarter of the cost of an office visit.
Location: Many LGBTQ-specific health services are only available in major metropolitan areas. Telehealth can open up access to people who were previously out-of-range.
Discrimination: Unfortunately, many healthcare providers and healthcare settings can be discriminatory toward LGBTQ people. More than half of LGBTQ people report experiencing discrimination in healthcare settings. The discrimination ranges anywhere from denying people entry to care, and all the way to physical assault.
Anti-LGBTQ Health Laws: In May, the federal government rolled back two rules related to the Affordable Care Act – the result of which would make it even harder for LGBTQ people to access the health and wellness services that we need. And there are other anti-LGBTQ health laws, as well, at the state level.
Lack of Provider Knowledge: There’s a lack of providers, who are properly trained on how to treat LGBTQ people. When LGBTQ health and wellness training is offered at medical schools or nursing schools, it tends to focus only on HIV prevention and treatment, which doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the actual needs of our community.
Here in New York City, there are several LGBTQ health clinics. But outside of these clinics, I’ve heard stories such as providers denying trans people gender affirming surgeries. I also heard a story about someone, who went to a hospital and asked about gender affirming surgery and was told: “We don’t do that here.” The patient left feeling unheard and unwelcome.
There are specific needs for LGBTQ people. It’s more than just creating a safe environment for us to be in. It’s also about “Hey, do you know what you’re doing?”
(DH): What is your definition of “culturally aware” health and wellness providers? What qualities must they possess? What special training must they go through to make your list?
(DR): We’re creating a vetting and training process, because we want to create a new standard for LGBTQ providers across health and wellness. There are a few organizations out there training providers on how to be more LGBTQ-inclusive. We’re looking to establish an inclusiveness baseline for providers, as opposed to letting providers establish that themselves. Our training will also include tools for creating safe environments for LGBTQ people.
Providers, who want to be on our platform, have to want and know how to treat LGBTQ people, and go through our vetting and training process. This is all about creating safer, more comprehensive, and inclusive experiences around health and wellness for LGBTQ people.
(DH): Is the training only for students, or seasoned providers as well?
(DR): Current healthcare students, who want to become more LGBTQ-inclusive, will be able to go through the training; but this is definitely something providers who have been practicing for a long time, can also take advantage of, as well. I think it’s important that the healthcare system in this country move toward LGBTQ inclusion. This is especially true in pediatrics, because you never know which child is going to be queer and/or trans. It’s a huge point of intervention for queer and/or trans children, as pediatricians are often the first point of contact for parents and guardians.
(DH): We have a saying that “the future of health will be built on .health domain names” — how is Queerly.health shaping the future of healthcare?
(DR): The traditional healthcare system has largely overlooked the needs of LGBTQ people and the future of health is digital health. So the question is, will the future of health be LGBTQ-inclusive? Queerly Health is making sure it is.
(DH): Why did you decide to go with a .health domain name for the initiative?
(DR): We were called by the intention and initiative behind .health. Here was this space on the internet that was already set up for health companies. So, it was really just a matter of carving out something explicitly for the LGBTQ community, and we already knew we wanted our name to be Queerly Health.
(DH): How can other companies and organizations become more LGBTQ-inclusive?
(DR): It really depends on the company and its culture. That’s really for people to ask within their own organization. But I’d say just make sure that LGBTQ people feel affirmed and validated. Ask them what they need, what they want, and make them feel like they belong.
Affinity groups within companies are also great because they show that an organization’s values reflect LGBTQ inclusion. These groups also acknowledge that LGBTQ people deal with a lot of social stigmas, discrimination, and violence. They help companies make sure that they’re doing everything they can to combat those obstacles in their own organization.
And if they have the access, the power, and the privilege to influence settings outside of their organization then they should do that as well.
(DH): Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?
(DR): We’re only a few months old, so most of our success stories are as a young startup.
In proportion to the general population, there aren’t a lot of companies being founded by LGBTQ people. So part of what we’re doing with Queerly Health is also inspiring other LGBTQ people to build too. When I did Pitch Latino in Portland earlier this year, there were LGBTQ people in the audience.
After we won, I remember people coming up to me in tears, and just thanking me for creating something that made them feel seen, and doing more for LGBTQ health and wellness.
(DH): What does Pride Month mean to you and your organization? Do you have any special plans or events coming up? Where can people connect with you?
(DR): First, Pride should be all year round. But this year is more significant, because it’s our first Pride Month as a company, and we’re also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a significant moment in the LGBTQ rights movement.
We’re here as a company, because of all the sacrifices and contributions that LGBTQ people and LGBTQ allies have made in the last 50 years. And we’re definitely looking forward to the next 50 years! We’d love to see equity for LGBTQ people, more LGBTQ-founded companies, and more LGBTQ spaces. We really want to build a world, where LGBTQ people are seen, affirmed, included, and validated in every setting.
We’re really proud of our first event as a company on June 20, 2019, in collaboration with Samsung NEXT NY.
— Queerly Health (@QueerlyHealth) June 7, 2019
Ready to get involved?
Queerly Health is looking for LGBTQ-inclusive health and wellness providers to be on their steering committee, go through their training process, and be featured on their platform. Queerly Health is also looking for input from the community on what Queerly Health should be including in their platform.