What if FemTech was healthcare’s next great redesign? (Or, in other words, why does healthcare need a redesign).

Women wait 4 years longer to receive a diagnosis for the same disease as men. Women receive pain meds 16 mins later in emergency settings. Women experience worse side-effects from meds in 90% of cases.

The above stats are somewhat depressing but also present a tremendous opportunity because healthcare is not static. And healthcare at this moment in time in particular is not static. With the cost of genetic testing going down radically, the more widespread adoption of telehealth (due to COVID but a paradigm shift in the way care is delivered), digital therapeutics and the implementation of DIGA in Germany. The very structure of our healthcare system is changing – by necessity. The healthcare system is going to be forced to adapt because we have a shrinking healthcare workforce, an ageing population – healthcare is going to be forced to be reimagined, is in fact being reimagined as we speak. As it should. 

There are 5 times as many studies into erectile dysfunction as PMS: 19% of men are impacted by erectile dysfunction, whereas 90% of women are impacted by PMS. Male-prevalent diseases (like tuberculosis, prostate cancer, hepatitis) get twice as much research funding dollars compared to female-prevalent one like endometriosis PCOS, migraines, eating disorders.

How can that be the case? How can male-prevalent diseases like tuberculosis, prostate cancer and hepatitis get two times the research funding dollars compared to female-prevalent ones like endometriosis, PCOS, migraines and eating disorders — and what can we do about it? Enter: FemTech. (Okay, it was somewhat predictable that we were going to talk about FemTech here … but what even is it?).

What is FemTech? Femtech = software, diagnostics, products and services that focus and support women's health and/or biological needs.

How is FemTech improving women's healthcare? By developing devices focusing on women, we are able to: better monitor women's health, diagnose diseases, collect data, provide tailored solutions. The applications of FemTech vary from chronic syndromes (eg endometriosis) to mental health, cardiovascular conditions to sexual wellness and more ...

1 in 6 women experience sever pain every day. Women are in pain more often and more severely than men. 1 in 2 women feel they have had their pain ignored or dismissed because of their gender. If you would like to find out more about the Gender Pain Gap : Nurofen’s Gender Pain Gap Report has some fabulously shocking statistics about women’s health. 

https://www.nurofen.co.uk/see-my-pain/ is particularly insightful 

The work of Jeffrey Mogil, a Canadian neuroscientist and the E.P. Taylor Professor of Pain Studies and Canada Research Chair in the Genetics of Pain at McGill University, is also particularly insightful.

So why is there such a large gender pain gap?

70% of those suffering from chronic pain are women yet 80% of studies on pathophysiology or processing of chronic pain is derived from studying men or male rodents. Differences between sexes exist in the genetic, molecular, cellular and systems-level mechanisms of acute and chronic pain processing that have not been properly studied in women

Does that seem like it makes a lot of sense? That 80% of research is performed on male models, whilst women account for 80% of healthcare decisions?

In 2019, only 42% of studies that used both male and female subjects analysed data by sex --> potentially ignoring important distinctions in diagnostics and treatment.

Okay, but surely the statistics are *only* that bad when it comes to women’s pain?

Well … not quite.

Did you know that heart attacks are the number one cause of death in women and yet women (under the age of 50) have a two times higher mortality rate from heart attack than men the same age?

Younger women (under 50) have a 2x higher mortality rate from heart attacks than men the same age. Female heart attacks feature “less obstructive plaque” than the male-bodied heart, requiring alternative treatments such as suctioning out blood clots.  ​ The optimal dosage for heart failure medication between women and men may differ but is not usually included in the guidelines. ​ Adverse drug reactions occur more frequently in women (1.5 x higher) 2018 study by American Heart Association: men 6% more likely to receive bystander CPR when suffering from an apparent heart attack in a public setting than women resulting in 29% increased odds of survival​ British Heart Foundation: women who suffer heart attacks are half as likely to receive the recommended medical treatment for cardiovascular issues:eg 15 % of female heart attack patients fitted with a stent vs 34% of men. ​ More than 8,000 women in England and Wales died of misdiagnosed or untreated heart attacks they tried to report over a ten-year period. 

Okay, so cardiovascular treatment and pain treatment for women is somewhat suboptimal … but surely that’s it, right? When it comes to the other organ systems women don’t have worse outcomes than men.

Not quite … 1 in 9 women in the US have Diabetes and YET:

Women with Type 1 diabetes are 37% more likely to die from secondary complication than men.

Cancer is no exception. With women having a nearly 50% increased risk of serious side effects from immunotherapy compared with men. The National Cancer Institute has a great article about this. 

Side effects from cancer treatment are 34% higher in women. Difference in terms of what is prioritised between men and women. Doctors are not as likely to care about quality of life in women as in men.

Why is that the case? “With prostate cancer, for example, patients often have multiple treatment options, and sexual side effects are a common consideration when choosing between therapies. With cervical cancer, however, there is less variability in the treatment paradigm. Physician comfort in talking about sexual dysfunction with female patients cannot be discounted.” – Dr. Takayesu.

​Men can also choose between many sexual dysfunction medications approved by FDA —>few to none exist for women.

Okay, but when it comes to female specific conditions … maybe the statistics are better? They’ve got to be right. The problem is we just associate women with diseases like endometriosis, PCOS etc., right?

Yeah … not exactly. Endometriosis is a fabulous example of this. It impacts 10% of women globally, costs the UK economy 8.2 billion annually and yet : the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, there is no definite cure and the current standard diagnostic method is incredibly invasive, resulting in a 7.5 year time frame to diagnose the disease.

Women impacted by endometriosis lose an average of 10.8 hours weekly. 1 in 6 women have lost their job due to having to take time off to manage symptoms of Endometriosis. Endometriosis costs the UK economy 8.2 billion a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.

Only 2.5% of publicly funded medical research has been dedicated to female reproductive health disorders, though they impact 1 in 3 women.

And what about PCOS? PCOS affects 10% of women. It is the most common endocrine disorder of women of reproductive age. The US spends 4 billion dollars annually to identify and manage PCOS.

There are sex differences in every single cell in the human body. All of this should impact the way care is accessed, designed and delivered: what we test for, the tools we use, how care is accessed, what is considered a vital sign, even what our definition of what the baseline is. Solutions and research in women's health that already exist need to be made easily accessible and translatable to the women that need them.

If you have an idea for a startup or researcher in women’s health / FemTech you think we should feature– we’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to be actively involved in what we’re building : as a volunteer or as a Beta Tester — FemTechGuide translates these innovations (research, solutions and services) to enable direct access to patients and physicians to help bridge the gap in care.


Or would you like to attend our flagship FemTechnology Summit (bringing together the most innovative payers and players in women’s health together) in person? Apply to attend here : 

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