It is a sad yet undeniable fact that the tools we currently use to treat patients were not designed with women in mind. They were designed for men and by men. They were designed with a 70 kg white man in mind. But most of us are not 70 kg white men, which means that the healthcare system we have entrusted with taking care of us does not have the tools they truly need to take care of our needs.
FemTech highlights the ways medicine has the potential to be more inclusive going forward, to meet the patient where they are, when they are, and in the ways that they can and should best be reached.
#1 FemTech will transform the way we collect healthcare data and how we use it.
The Gender Data Gap in healthcare is well documented. 70% of the people impacted by chronic pain are women, yet 80% of pain studies are conducted on male mice or human men. Less than 2.5% of publicly funded research has been dedicated to female reproductive health, though one in three women will experience severe reproductive health issues in their lifetime.
This large and glaring gap when it comes to our knowledge of women and their bodies — are why the fact that women are 20–30% more likely to be misdiagnosed than men is unsurprising. But medicine must do better going forward. FemTech has the unique potential to solve this pain-point.
FemTech startups allow for the collection of important health data sets in real time as well as the collection of data from a much wider and more diverse sample set of people than would otherwise be represented in clinical trials — thus rendering the information collected more insightful and widely applicable.
Moreover, FemTech solutions are ingenious in that the women get something out of sharing their data. FemTech solutions provide much desired personalized insights for women to use — creating a virtuous cycle, whereby the more the woman uses the product (and more data she gives the FemTech startup) the more value the woman (and the startup) is able to extract.
Some examples of FemTech startups bridging the gender health gap?
Evvy — an at home vaginal microbiome test that tests for all the bacteria and fungi present in a microbiome sample, so that women can better understand the role their microbiome plays in regards to UTIs, STDs, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease etc. (Evvy will be speaking at the 2022 FemTechnology Summit) . Evvy wants to close the gender health gap by leveraging overlooked biomarkers in the female body — starting with the vaginal microbiome.
Another example is Clue — a period tracking app, allowing you to discover patterns in your menstrual cycle which is known and lauded for collaborating with researchers to conduct in depth studies about the menstrual cycle. (Clue was featured at the 2021 FemTechnology Summit).
Or Lioness — a smart vibrator, using built-in sensors and an intuitive mobile app to visualize arousal and orgasms so that women can better understand their sexual pleasure (Ava will be featured at the 2021 FemTechnology Summit).
At their core — all of these solutions are about collecting data sets that women can then use to make more informed decisions about their own health. But all of these startups also collaborate with researchers to better understand meta-trends in women’s health in their respective fields and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that in the not too distant future these insights will be integrated into healthcare practices.
#2 FemTech will revolutionize how patients communicate with doctors.
More than 40 percent of women eventually diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease were told by doctors at one point or another that they were “just too concerned with their health or they’re a hypochondriac”. As you can no doubt imagine, women feeling dismissed by doctors is a fundamental problem — for the women themselves (increased risk of misdiagnosis, mistrust in the medical system etc.). But it is a fundamental problem that FemTech can hopefully change. One of the reasons women feel dismissed by doctors is that that doctors are often not taught to recognize the way symptoms of many diseases manifest in women, nor do doctors have the diagnostic tools to diagnose women correctly (A classic example is heart attacks where the diagnostic tools to diagnose a heart attack are not adapted for the way they manifest in women).
But hopefully by coming to doctors with bodies of data amassed as evidence –women will face less of an uphill battle in terms of convincing doctors that something is awry. Or at the very least will be able to convince doctors that there are perhaps other metrics they should be evaluating their patients on the basis of.
Some tools that allow women to do just this:
FrendoApp — an app helping its users receive an endometriosis diagnosis faster. It is the only endometriosis app that features a screening tool using a Patient Reported Outcome method.
Bloomer Tech — a bra to collect cardiovascular data from women. Bloomertech is integrating advanced fabrics technology and machine learning to turn everyday clothes, such as a women’s bra, into lifestyle medical and healthcare devices.
#3 FemTech is redefining inter-patient communication.
The driving force behind the success of most FemTech start-ups is the effective communities they have managed to cultivate. These are patient communities, places where women can gather to discuss similar challenges, insights others have gleaned, ways they have felt dismissed by the system. FemTech startups play an interesting role in the space — they straddle the line between being healthcare providers and delivering a consumer good (being a brand). Part of the reason, so many of these FemTech have such engaged and active fan bases has to do with the fact that so many women have felt dismissed and dissatisfied by the solutions they are proposed by the medical community for so many years.
Patient communities are not unique to women’s reproductive health however, but an integral part of healthcare as a whole. They allow patients to connect with others undergoing the same thing, allow them to learn from each other, crowdsourcing solutions that can provide much needed relief.
These are just three of the ways FemTech is reshaping healthcare — but the potential of FemTech to redesign healthcare stretches far beyond this. To find out more about how FemTech is showcasing what the future of care will look like, how FemTech is helping bridge the gender health data gap in medicine and the link between gender and effective therapy in medicine — join the FemTechnology Summit June 1st + 2nd 2022.