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International Women's Day: Taking stock of FemTech trajectory

Harnessing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and big data, FemTech companies are developing personalized and low-cost solutions to address women-specific healthcare challenges such as endometriosis, pregnancy, cervical cancer, osteoporosis, breast cancer and more.

Renu MehtaRenu Mehta | Devdiscourse | Updated: 06-03-2020 22:36 IST | Created: 06-03-2020 22:24 IST
International Women's Day: Taking stock of FemTech trajectory
Interestingly, the niche sector has also seen the rise of many female entrepreneurs who are changing the business landscape and serving as role models for women around the world. Image Credit: ANI

Globally, only 4 percent of healthcare research and development spending is directed to women's health. When it comes to the inclusion of women in medical research, they still face discrimination. Biological differences and other socio-cultural factors also have a significant impact on the health of women and girls. This bias puts women's health at risk, whilst also hindering scientific progress in the health sector.

But an emerging sector is likely to put an end to this longtime bias. Just like EdTech, FinTech, RegTech, LegalTech, FemTech or female technology is a rapidly-growing sector in the healthcare industry that recognizes the needs of women and develops women-centric health products, software, apps or other tech solutions.

As the world is gearing up to celebrate the International Women's Day on March 8, let's take a quick look at how the FemTech industry is empowering women by recognizing their health needs. Interestingly, the niche sector has also seen the rise of many female entrepreneurs who are changing the business landscape and serving as role models for women around the world.

Meeting the unmet demand of women

FemTech has great potential to transform healthcare services for women and girls. Harnessing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and big data, FemTech companies are developing personalized and low-cost solutions to address women-specific healthcare challenges such as endometriosis, pregnancy, cervical cancer, osteoporosis, breast cancer and more.

Lattice Medical, a French biomedical start-up has developed an innovative technical solution for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. The 3D printed bioabsorbable implant called 'Matisee' allows adipose tissue to naturally regenerate. Reconstructed using the patient's tissues, breasts reach the desired size after just one surgery while the implant degraded within a year.

Currently, in the pre-clinical development stage, the product will undergo the first breast reconstruction trial in 2021 and emerge as a cost-effective and natural reconstructive procedure as opposed to silicon prosthesis and flap technique, the most commonly used breast reconstruction procedures.

Apart from creating general health and wellness solutions, FemTech companies develop solutions for breast cancer detection, mental health, depression, pregnancy, and menstrual care. These solutions are not only elevating healthcare standards for women around the world but also reducing the economic costs of gender inequality in the healthcare industry.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the FemTech market revenue is expected to reach USD 1.1 billion by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9 percent. Their latest research identifies growth opportunities for Femtech companies and organizations in:

Pregnancy care solutions with affordable pricing

Over 800 women die each day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, mainly due to hemorrhage, pre-existing medical conditions, and unsafe abortions. Notably, most of these complications are preventable or treatable, according to the World Health Organization. Most of these deaths occur in less developed and low-income countries where women lack access to health services. Barriers limiting access to quality maternal health services include lack of information, distance to facilities, poverty, and cultural beliefs and practices.

Examples include Sweden's Bonzun that provides expectant mothers with the necessary tools and knowledge to ensure a calm and safe pregnancy. The company has developed Bonzun- My Pregnancy App developed in collaboration with midwives. From tracking the baby's movements to giving smart suggestions, the app provides the most up-to-date evidence-based information to mothers-to-be. The award-winning app is used in over 79 countries worldwide.

LactApp is another such platform dedicated to solving breastfeeding and maternity doubts in a personalized way. The app offers personalized answers according to the specific situations, based on the baby's age, its weight gain for the age (According to the WHO weight charts), the mother's condition (if pregnant or lactating, or tandem breastfeeding), etc.

Expanding reach to low-income regions such as Africa and Asia

Poor women in low-income regions such as Africa and Asia are least likely to receive adequate healthcare services. In 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounted for approximately 86 percent (254, 000) of the estimated global maternal deaths. According to the WHO, African women are more likely to die from communicable diseases (e.g. HIV, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies, than women in other regions of the world.

Poverty, cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), gender inequality are the major factors hindering access to quality healthcare for women in Africa. For example, Cervical cancer, one of the most preventable and curable forms of cancers is the second most common cancer among women in the African region, the reason being insufficient access to health care services, effective screening, and early treatment.

Digital clinics like Maven that provides instant expert help via video chat or message with over 1,000 women's and family health specialists anytime, anywhere can help women in hard-to-reach areas. From fertility counseling and birth plans to breastfeeding and mental health, the platform provides cost-effective healthcare services on the go.

Since FemTech is an emerging and rapidly-growing sector, startups need to focus on expanding their reach to low-income regions where healthcare tools are unaffordable and inaccessible.

Developing culturally appropriate solutions such as wearables or telehealth

Growing health awareness and consumer curiosity have fuelled the demand for wearable devices globally. Telehealth, on the other hand, telehealth solutions break down geographical barriers, therefore reach more patients. They are cost-effective as compared to in-office visits and also improve patient-doctor engagement with remote monitoring.

With the first-ever in-bra wearable breast pump, Willow transformed pumping experience for moms. Back in January 2020, the company revealed its third Generation breast pump with Smart Suction technology, giving mom the ability to tailor her experience to her needs. Moms can check milk volume, pumping time and past pumping sessions in Willow App.

Another example is birth control delivery startup Nurx, a one-stop solution for women. The Nurx medical team review request and prescribes birth control, emergency contraception, prescription treatment for oral and genital herpes, and cost-effective kits for HIV prevention, common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and cervical cancer.

Reaching women customers in rural areas

Menstruation, sex, and pregnancy still tend to be taboo topics in many parts of the world. Women and girls in rural areas have less awareness of these topics as compared to those living in urban areas. Lower or no access to information and quality services leave them struggling to navigate personal health.

FemTech companies have largely benefitted from the increasing smartphone and internet penetration. Using digital health technologies such as smartphone apps, companies can easily reach women, customers, in rural areas.

Glow empowers people with new information about their bodies. It has developed personal health tracking products including a period tracker & ovulation tracker app 'Eve' that keeps track of PMS symptoms and sex. The app identifies trends and patterns unique to a body and also delivers insights, cyclescopes, quizzes, and fascinating women's health topics such as birth control, sex, pregnancy, and ovulation on a daily basis.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)


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