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Unlocking the full potential of FemTech in addressing women’s health needs

Article-Unlocking the full potential of FemTech in addressing women’s health needs

Shutterstock FemTech
Innovative technologies are reshaping women’s health by offering personalised, accessible, and convenient solutions that empower women to take charge of their well-being.

Despite the advancements in technology, women’s health continues to face several challenges. For instance, many women’s health issues, such as reproductive health, menstruation, and menopause, are still considered taboo or stigmatised in various societies.

Historically, women’s health concerns have long been understudied as well, leading to gaps in knowledge and research. This bias can hinder the accurate representation and understanding of women’s health needs.

To tackle these challenges, technology companies have a responsibility to lead the way in addressing the gaps in women’s health, said Ida Tin, a Danish internet entrepreneur and author credited with coining the term “FemTech” in 2016. She is also the Co-founder and Chairwoman of Clue, a period and ovulation tracker app.

FemTech refers to technology and digital health solutions specifically designed for women’s health. According to a report in Grand View Research, the global FemTech market size is projected to reach US$60.01 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2 per cent from 2020 to 2027. This demonstrates the growing recognition and potential of FemTech as a rapidly expanding industry, with increasing investments and a wide range of products and services to address women’s health needs.

Ida Tin

Ida Tin, Co-founder and Chairwoman of Clue

At the recently concluded Florida International Medical Expo (FIME) held in Miami, Tin participated in the Transformation Talks session where she spoke on ‘The rise of FemTech, a whole new subsection of tech set to be worth US$1 trillion’ and gave the audience a sense of the road ahead for the FemTech industry. She spoke at length about the products needed to address the gaps in women’s health and how they could meet specific health challenges. 

Related: Navigating the future of Femtech

In an exclusive interview with Omnia Health, Tin shared what inspired her to start her journey in FemTech. “Back in 2009, I started thinking and questioning why so little innovation was being done in family planning methods. I thought, what if we could take our smartphones and it could tell us on which days a woman could get pregnant and which days not, so they would not have to take hormones but instead work with their hormones by using data?” she said.

“In my travels around the world, I have seen women’s lives in several different settings and knew that women need to be in control and have agency over how many children they have. That was my spark, and over the years, I got more fascinated with how much we can do for people by helping them track their cycle.”

Today, many women continue to suffer from intimate health issues such as concerns around breastfeeding and can feel very isolated when in reality these problems are common and often remediable. The market for pregnancy and postpartum femtech solutions is growing rapidly to meet this need. 

Recently, British FemTech brand Elvie expanded into the UAE market by launching its discreet, wearable breast pump range. Tania Boler, Founder of Elvie, highlighted: “It is our mission to empower women through female-first technology. Our products enable women to pump on their own terms. We are giving women smart, high-tech tools so they can harness their incredible biology with full control. The pumps fit around people’s lifestyles and not the other way around. We also pride ourselves on our online community where we talk about these issues frankly and informatively, enabling women to come together and see that they are not alone.”

Tania Boller.png

Tania Boler, Founder of Elvie

Reinventing women’s health

FemTech has the potential to provide women with accessible and accurate information about their bodies, reproductive health, menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, menopause, and various other aspects of women’s health. Digital platforms, mobile applications, and online communities can empower women by offering educational resources and tools to make informed decisions about their health.

Related: Femtech at the forefront

According to Tin, there is an increasing need to have more predictive and personalised algorithms. She said: “When it comes to menopause, there is no easy and accessible way to understand how many more years a woman can expect to be fertile. Also, there are many websites where people share knowledge about hormonal birth control, for example, but these are not scientific or data-driven. I think personalisation and looking at a woman’s body on a molecular level is still missing.”

Tin added that the data that is generated through apps can also be quite fragmented, and there is a need for it to come together more so that people can leverage it better and understand; for instance, how their thyroid functions could affect their periods, which in turn could impact their sports regime. These insights can inform evidence-based based practices, policymaking, and the development of new interventions.

“Women will increasingly expect and demand technology to offer solutions to health issues,” said Tin. “Today, there are great algorithms that find us the next movie or bring us food in no time. So, if there are tech products out there that can help, women will go and find them and ask their physicians to look at that data to determine their health status.”

A recent report from Frost & Sullivan highlighted that femtech companies are emerging worldwide. Europe accounted for the largest share of the femtech market in 2020, followed by North America. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years.

When asked about the current state of the FemTech sector, Boller highlighted that more female entrepreneurs are entering the space, and there is an increased female representation among researchers, developers, inventors, founders etc., which, in turn, creates more consumer-focused products that target women’s specific needs. 

“As awareness spreads about this growing sector and the myriad of opportunities to better women’s healthcare, we will see more and more innovation and growth, expanding to historically overlooked areas of women’s health,” she added. 

“Women should be integral in every aspect of developing FemTech products. At Elvie, we consult with experts but also ensure that the end user, women, are part of each stage of the process. We start by identifying a problem women face or isolating a need and then innovate. We are not coming up with fancy knick-knacks and are dedicated to creating products that women genuinely want and need.”

In conclusion, Tin said: “Women’s health has been ignored for a long time. We now need more diversity in people who decide what kind of technology is built to address these needs. We need women’s bodies to be included when we develop medicine, and we need to give the area more attention and create awareness, education, and communication around it. I also want to stress that it is important that we include men in this work. We need men to care about female health. We must not exclude them; we must explain to them what we experience. We must welcome them when they want to invest. I believe we should be building products by diverse teams, not just by women, but for women.”

EmpowerHer programme to bridge the gap in women’s health

Bridging the growth gap in women’s health is a formidable challenge, presenting a significant barrier to the delivery of comprehensive and effective care. This gap amounts to approximately US$17 trillion and stems from three crucial areas: a gap in clinical research, limited access to healthcare, and inadequate funding for women’s health technology. Closing this gap requires the collective efforts of healthcare providers, policymakers, researchers, and society. 

To meet this need, Frost & Sullivan recently launched the EmpowerHer Growth Council Think Tank series, which addresses the growth gap in women’s health. These Think Tanks started in June and will be conducted over the next 12 months. It will serve as a dynamic platform, bringing together experts, thought leaders, industry professionals, and key stakeholders to strategise and shape the future of women’s health.

“We are proud to launch this programme, as we strongly believe in the power of collaboration and innovation to drive positive impact,” said Reenita Das, Senior Vice President at Frost & Sullivan. “Through our Growth Council Think Tanks, we aim to empower women, improve access to quality healthcare, and contribute to the overall well-being of women worldwide. By bringing together diverse perspectives, we are confident that we will create tangible outcomes and establish new benchmarks for the industry.”

This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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