Locally founded LGBT health-care app launches

Locally founded LGBT health-care app launches

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It took one year and a lot of sleepless nights, but QSPACES is now live.

“We were supposed to launch the website a month ago,” said cofounder Catherine Hofman, “but it kept getting pushed back. We were working on the site almost until the launch party.” 

QSPACES is a website that allows users to search for and rate health-care providers, including specialists, PCPs and mental-health providers, on their friendliness, competence and overall care. The website launched last month at QSpacesHealth.com and currently offers a database of 7,500 doctors users can search and review. Doctors will also be able to “claim” their profiles and expand on them.

The idea for QSPACES was born in 2015 when spouses Hofman and Nic Anthony moved to Philadelphia from North Carolina so Anthony could pursue her medical degree. Despite the vibrant LGBT community and the many hospitals in Philadelphia, they said, they both struggled to find doctors who were LGBT-competent. At the time, Hofman said, “We moved to Philly and we were like, Where are all the gay people at?” 

After they had come up with the idea for QSPACES, they presented the concept at the 2016 JAZ Tank Awards and netted a $10,000 investment from Thomas Jefferson University. 

“It was a shock to realize how much a website costs,” Hofman said. “Everyone spends their days online, and you never think about how much it all costs. But what we managed to create with $22,000 is just incredible. We’ll only get better with more time and money.

“At first, we thought we could build it ourselves,” she added. “I thought, I’m smart, I can teach myself coding. I thought I’d hire a few people and just get it all out in six months. That is not how it happened.”

Instead, the pair connected with Webjunto. They met with the company last summer to devise the primary functions users would want from the site, based largely on a public survey they conducted earlier last year.

“We got 300 responses to that survey and [they] guided the direction we were headed,” Hofman said.

A Lambda Legal study found that 56 percent of LGB individuals and 70 percent of transgender people have experienced discrimination, including physical harassment and abusive language, while seeking health care. 

A 2012 study by University of Washington Health Sciences examined the effects of implicit bias towards LGBT patients. The study found that self-identified heterosexual providers are more comfortable providing care to other heterosexuals.

Even as Philadelphia-area doctors work to increase their LGBT services, such as the University of Penn’s LGBT Health Program, other states are putting up barriers to LGBT health care. A recently passed law in Mississippi allows doctors to refuse treatment to LGBT people on religious grounds and similar laws have been introduced in Florida and Tennessee. 

Hofman noted that QSPACES is not a directory of LGBT-friendly doctors. 

“A lot of people think all these doctors are LGBT-friendly, but that’s what the reviews are for. We need people to go on and rate the doctors because some of them might not be.”

At the June 27 launch party at Toasted Walnut, dozens of people, many of them members of the medical and LGBT communities, gathered to celebrate Anthony, Hofman and the Webjunto team.

During a toast, Hofman said, “What I’ve done my whole life is solve problems, and it’s difficult to get quality health care in Philadelphia, so that seemed like a great problem to solve.”

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