By: Jacqueline Cole
This May, we celebrate Women’s Health Month. We celebrate the people and companies who are advancing women’s health and breaking down barriers to optimizing health. Especially in the context of the recent draft SCOTUS ruling striking down Roe v. Wade, it is now more important than ever that women’s health tech companies be recognized and funded in order to bring much needed solutions to the forefront.
The past two years have brought a myriad of longstanding health inequities to the surface and exacerbated already exhausted health systems that struggle to provide timely and consistent women’s health care. While women were less likely than men to develop severe disease as a result of COVID-19 infection, women were actually more likely to receive a delayed diagnosis and die as a result. This showcases that healthcare systems are not always set up to optimally serve women. For example, as recently as 2021, studies show that as a result of pain-related gender stereotypes, physicians still fail to take women’s estimation of pain seriously, resulting in more psychotherapy prescribed to women and more pain medication prescribed to men. Moreover, physicians remain less likely to recommend timely treatment for heart disease and heart attacks in women. These biases penetrate the provision of care regardless of the providers gender, sexuality, and race, showing a pervasive culture that affects all aspects of care.
FemTech solutions are often designed to overcome these biases and barriers. FemTech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology often to focus on women’s health. It provides a wide range of solutions and tools that meet the needs of cisgender women as well as the needs of transgender and nonbinary people who may access similar care. These areas include but are not limited to maternal health, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, fertility, menopause, and contraception, as well as a number of general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently, such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease.
Many FemTech solutions seek to address the gaps left by biopharma and medical device markets, empowering women’s self-care, accurate diagnoses, and inclusive, destigmatized, culturally sensitive medicine. While FemTech currently receives just 3% of digital health funding, there is room to grow. According to FemTech Analytics, the global FemTech Market accounted for $40.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at an average CAGR of 13.3% from 2020 till 2025 to reach $75.1 billion. While there is increased investor interest, with investments in the women+ space nearly doubling from $774 million to $1.3 billion in 2021, there is still untapped potential.
Women’s Health Companies on the Rise
We’d like to highlight some exciting FemTech companies on the market, each with a female founder and a mission to address inequity in women’s health.
Maven Clinic reached Unicorn status in 2021, a first for a female-founded company focused on women’s and family health. Maven Clinic is a virtual clinic for women’s and family health, offering fertility, pregnancy, and parenting support. In 2021, Maven Clinic joined in the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action where they committed to expanding their free COVID-19 vaccination consultation service. This service provides answers to any pregnant person who would like to meet with a Maven OB-GYN and voice their questions and concerns. Maven also launched a 2-part education initiative to raise awareness around why pregnant people are choosing to not get vaccinated, as only 1 in 3 pregnant people are fully vaccinated.
Tia offers comprehensive care to support women’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Solutions like Tia are becoming more and more relevant as women are reporting a higher increase in anxiety and depression than men globally. With many schools rapidly opening and closing, many mothers have had disproportionately more stress and responsibilities, including home-schooling children, all while managing their own psychological responses to COVID-19. Tia provides services tailored for an individual rather than a one-fits-all approach. Their services are membership-based and can be covered by insurance. The platform helps cultivates community by hosting events and workshops that emphasize connectivity, conversation, and ongoing education around the experiences that affect female health.
Health in Her HUE
Health in Her HUE connects Black women and women of color to culturally sensitive healthcare providers, evidence-based health content, and community support. Black women and women of color connect with BIPOC therapists, doctors, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and more on the Health in Her Hue app. Health in Her Hue launched in 2018, and their services include a provider directory as well as a content library that focuses on the experiences and issues of Black women. This platform was created due to the lack of resources specifically tailored to Black women and women of color. Women desired a provider who was able to understand relate to their experiences, so Health in Her Hue was born.
Kasha is an e-commerce platform for women’s health products and information serving women in urban and rural areas in East Africa. Kasha is striving to increase access to contraceptives, which are proven to decrease the maternal and neonatal death rates, decrease poverty, and decrease HIV Infection rates. This platform was specifically designed for women without access to the internet, to ensure that they are still able to receive the care they need. Women can call and receive telehealth care or visit an area nearby with a Kasha representative. Kasha is also keeping girls in school by providing access to affordable menstrual care, which in turn improves girls’ livelihoods and decreases poverty. Their platform empowers low-income women by providing paid employment through their agent model. This creates economic stability and prosperity for women and their families and communities.
FOLX Health is a secure and safe healthcare service for the LGBTQIA+ community that provides discrete delivery of estrogen and testosterone, virtual telehealth visits, and letters for name change and/or gender marker change. Resources include safe ways to chest bind, sexual health resources, information on estrogen and testosterone, and more. FOLX Health is the first major queer and trans-venture-backed company to offer virtual care and prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy and sexual health. These LGBTQIA+ focused solutions and resources have often been neglected in traditional health settings, so people who needed them were not receiving the care they were looking for. FOLX Health not only provides access to these resources but offers memberships where people can perform at-home testing, telehealth visits and more from the safety of their home.
Bloomer Tech is a company embedding sensors into everyday bras to collect data on heart disease in women, a frequently misdiagnosed and under-researched area in medicine. Through the use of the Bloomer Bra in both clinical trials and the provider space, they hope to develop female-specific digital biomarkers and predictive algorithms that can then be used to detect arrhythmias, predict cardiac events, and track drug metabolism. BloomerTech was founded to combat the disproportionate rates of cardiovascular disease in women. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year, which equates to around 1 woman every minute passing from heart disease.
BloomerTech will be participating in the BCBSMA Health Equity Business Accelerator Pitch Showcase on May 19, hosted by Healthbox. Register today to hear from BloomerTech and four other companies fighting against health inequity.
FemTech, the Future of Healthcare
Companies like those above are actively fighting against inequality and are providing safe, reliable healthcare for women. Whether it be through virtual care, new products, or making healthcare accessible, FemTech is revolutionizing the way healthcare is customized and available for women. Investors should take note at the shifting market trends and make it a priority to empower and uplift solutions that are shaping the future of women’s health.