On the Bright Side: Women’s Health Innovation and the Rise of Femtech
Gender inequality in healthcare is an omnipresent issue that has negatively affected women’s health for generations. As a result of the historical gender bias against women in societies and countries across the world, the medical system’s foundation is built upon “a patriarchal investigation into the human body, with data and results stemming from male-only testing and trials.” Although it can be difficult to feel optimistic about women’s health between longstanding global inequities and the United States’ backwards progress in reproductive healthcare, the rise of the Femtech movement and resulting innovations in women’s health demonstrate a step in the right direction.
The term “FemTech'' refers to a category of technological products and services that are specifically focused on women’s health. FemTech has only been around since 2016, yet has grown in popularity rapidly and evolved to incorporate a wide range of health technologies for female consumers. FemTech innovations include advances in conditions that are primarily female-specific, such as reproductive health and maternal health, as well as other health conditions that disproportionately affect women. It is important to note the need for more research on the impact of FemTech in the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as ensuring inclusive language that promotes equity and inclusion for transgender and non-binary individuals. Gender-affirming reproductive health care for transgender and non-binary individuals is particularly important because of the intersectionality of discrimination for individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups. The FemTech movement embodies a collective effort to combat gender bias and break down barriers for women’s access to care, and it is crucial to include other intersecting groups of people who face discrimination and can benefit from these technological advances.
McKinsey & Company’s research of hundreds of FemTech companies demonstrates the rapid acceleration of growth in FemTech, as pictured below.
McKinsey & Company FemTech Data
Although progress in women’s health equity across the world shows great promise, it remains a crisis in many countries. Increasing investments in FemTech on a national and global level can help close the gender inequity gap. Perhaps one of the greatest outcomes of the FemTech movement is the call to action for other realms of healthcare, particularly in the United States, to recognize that prioritizing health equity is a sound business decision. Not only does FemTech promote social justice that positively impacts other social determinants of health (SDOH), but it improves access to care, early detection and prevention of disease, and patient empowerment. All of these things align with and are strengthened by primary care providers in their efforts to drive high-value, equitable care for their patients.
Aside from the far-reaching benefits of FemTech for healthcare consumers, McKinsey & Company found that the FemTech movement “is powered to a significant extent by female entrepreneurs - more than 70 percent of FemTech companies we analyzed had at least one female founder, compared with a 20 percent norm for new companies.” Additionally, an analysis of biomedical patents finds that female health inventors and innovators tend to find health solutions for both men and women, whereas male inventors are more likely to solve conditions that are male-oriented.
As a female leader and entrepreneur in the health technology space, Elation Health’s CEO and Co-Founder, Kyna Fong, PhD, has done just that. Kyna believes that “the FemTech movement resembles primary care because they are both a ‘win-win’ in terms of economic value. When we address gender disparities in healthcare, we naturally improve health outcomes, which decreases the burden of healthcare spending on the economy, increases productivity, and just makes society better.”
Not only does Elation Health serve as a leader in driving primary care success across the nation, but Elation also provides a launch pad for innovative partner solutions that power women’s health through seamless integration. Elation is dedicated to driving equitable primary care access for women, as evidenced by its partnerships with organizations specifically dedicated to advancing women’s health, such as Herself Health and The Pill Club. “We look forward to continuing to support organizations that drive high-value primary care for women,” said Dr Fong.
For more information on how primary care can bridge the gender equity gap, please refer to my blog on the role of primary care in advancing women’s health in the United States.
Nina Cloven, MHA is Elation’s Manager of Primary Care Advancement. She received her MHA from The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and BS in Public Health from Texas A&M University.