When Nic Anthony moved to Philadelphia for medical school, she needed to switch her insurance plan and find a new primary care provider. She and her partner, Catherine Hofmann, asked for recommendations on several local queer Facebook groups, but realized they weren’t the only ones.
By far the biggest requests in these groups involve finding a therapist or doctor who’s LGBTQ-friendly. Anthony and Hofmann even conducted a survey with over 200 participants affirming people were most interested in LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers compared to housing, restaurants and other common spaces. Sometimes, the trans and queer communities face discrimination when seeking medical services, creating a barrier to accessing care.
This problem served as inspiration for a project called QSPACES, which Anthony started with Hofmann a year and a half ago. Hoffman is an independent designer with backgrounds in the startup world and design activism. However, both professionals’ fields — design and medicine — collide with activism.
“[QSPACES] is an app to search, rate and review health care providers based on LGBTQ competency,” explains Anthony. In other words, therapists or doctors who won’t discriminate against queer and trans folks. Users submit ratings and reviews anonymously.
— QSPACES for LGBTQ+ health (@qspacesapp) November 16, 2016
Every year, Jefferson and Philadelphia University hosts the JAZ Tank Challenge, an annual health care startup competition. For a $10,000 grand prize, professionals are asked to pitch their projects live to a panel of judges.
In 2016, Anthony and Hofmann were one of ten teams, chosen from more than 60 applicants, that were invited to pitch their idea at the event. Although the duo didn’t place, Jefferson Innovation later contacted them to personally invest $10,000 into the app.
Using the funds, the founders joined forces with Webjunto, a web development company based in Northern Liberties, to build and design the app. Anthony and Hoffman’s $10,000 prize money wasn’t enough to cover the cost of building an app but Webjunto offered QSPACES “a community partnership package” that covered the basics in exchange for recognition on the app’s website. Because the app is primarily crowdsourced, there is an urgency to launch sooner than later.
“[Webjunto] worked with us to get the bare minimum of what the app will be to start accruing the reviews,” Anthony added. “Their business exemplifies a lot of the same values as we do like prioritizing diversity and working with the community, which is hard to find in the tech world.”
— QSPACES for LGBTQ+ health (@qspacesapp) August 25, 2016
The app’s launch date is this spring. The beta version, which filters listings by rating, location, and speciality, will focus on medical providers based in Philadelphia.
QSPACES plans to expand to other cities nationally. They will also soon launch a crowdfunding campaign as a fundraiser.
“We want to use this information to contact the doctors that have the lowest reviews and set up a possible training with them,” Anthony said. “If they’re not open to remedying that, we can show that data to someone that can do something about it.”
In the distant future, the founders are interested in organizing friend speed dating and other events not oriented around alcohol for the surrounding LGBTQ community. They are also eager to curate city-specific travel guides.
“We hope to create a go-to platform for the LGBTQ community to figure out safe health care providers,” Hofmann said. “In order to do that, we need to build a big community and gather a lot of reviews through it, so others can learn from the knowledge already there.”
Knowledge is power!
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