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In 2016, Ida Tin, Danish co-founder of Clue, a menstrual health app, mentioned the term femtech, which defined a new segment of technology designed specifically for women. Data suggests that not all women understand their hormones, and many women are still underrepresented in clinical research. On top of that, social stigma against the discussion of women’s health leads to an ocean of knowledge that we cannot fully grasp yet. Hence, femtech got so popular.
Femtech is a market segment that takes care of female health. Focused on women’s health, this technology segment creates products, apps, services, diagnostic tools, fertility trackers, wearables, and software. This could include menstrual health, reproductive health, sexual health, maternal health, and menopause – all areas that lack proper research and public education. However, women’s health experiences go beyond reproductive health, and femtech has opportunities in chronic illness management, breast cancer, anxiety and depression, autoimmune conditions – the list goes on.
Are women invisible in clinical trials?
Unfortunately, women do not have enough representation in clinical trials. This is a problem because drugs are developed based on a group not representative of the general public. The effects on female health may not be accurately represented, resulting in unknown side effects for women who ultimately use medications, solutions, and advice pulled from the same clinical trials.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Yet, only about one-third of participants in clinical trials of new cardiovascular disease treatments are women. Nearly two-thirds of the 6.2 million people with Alzheimer’s disease are female, but in most animal studies, researchers do not specify the gender of the animals studied.
Socioeconomic factors can contribute to women being underrepresented in clinical trials. However, decentralized study designs can help recruit women. Decentralized studies may be more appealing to women because they make it easier to find a convenient location and visit multiple times while remaining in compliance with the study protocol.
Could FemTech Change It?
Currently valued at USD 51 billion, the femtech market is only expected to grow.
There are several benefits of femtech:
- Proactive participation in treatment
- Improving diagnoses;
- Personalizing care.
Proactive participation in treatment
Health and fitness tech, wearables, trackers, and other solutions are helping women take greater charge of their health and health-related data. From home diagnostics to apps that track fertility and contraceptive use, women are accessing more options than ever to help them make informed choices about their health.
Companies take care of medical needs in areas such as endometriosis (DotLab), preterm birth (Sera Prognostics), and PCOS (Allara). This is great because just endometriosis is as prevalent among women as diabetes yet receives not nearly as much funding.
“In nearly three-quarters of the cases where a disease afflicts primarily one gender, the funding pattern favors males, in that either the condition affects more women and is underfunded (for burden), or the disease affects more men and is overfunded. Moreover, the disparity between actual funding and that commensurate with commitment is nearly twice as significant for diseases that favor males versus those that prefer females.”
The femtech market promises to increase scientific understanding of female health and bridge the gaps in data to provide appropriate care to women. Even if the situation improves slightly, it could bring considerable value to women.
Within the femtech industry, women are not a homogenous group. While they have many similarities in all markets, differences help identify specific groups of women who use family planning methods and technologies to control their fertility.
Based on genetic qualities, a minority interest, or the level of income, there are different groups of people within the femtech market. Even though most of the startups are funded by women (92%), a wider audience is included.
Concerns about trust, security, and privacy
Certain privacy concerns exist within femtech. Femtech apps don’t fall under HIPAA (the national standard for protecting personal health information). In Post-Roe World, there is a concern about who can use personal female data and what they can do with it. Law enforcement agencies can potentially demand this data seeking to collect evidence against abortion providers.
What the future holds for FemTech?
As women’s healthcare becomes an increasing priority, FemTech is rising to meet the challenge as it matches capital and talent with unmet needs. FemTech has already demonstrated impressive early wins in a short time. An even more significant disruption could be ahead.
FemTech is still in its beginning stages, so many aspects of digital health need research and exploration. Rapid growth has been made partly by entrepreneurs eager to use technology to help underrepresented populations. Additionally, increasing awareness of women’s health and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases and infectious diseases in women are increasing the demand for personalized solutions.
Learn more on First Line Software’s Healthcare Practice