New digital health tools have been entering the marketplace for the last several years, and this trend doesn’t look to be slowing down. But there is a new change on the horizon. Female technology, or femtech, is starting to make waves in the healthcare community.
Femtech tools have historically been overlooked by venture capitalist firms, but that trend is starting to reverse, especially as 2020 begins. According to market research firm Frost & Sullivan, the femtech industry could be worth as much as $50 billion by 2025.
Read on for a look at what femtech is, how it started to develop, and how it is expected to change the digital health industry and the healthcare sector at large going forward.
What Is Femtech?
Femtech is a sub-category in the digital health arena targeting women’s health. Women have been overlooked and underserved in the healthcare industry for a long time, and while there are a number of medical issues that plague only women, the healthcare industry is strikingly overrepresented by men in terms of leadership.
Though a large portion of healthcare workers are women, very few make it into the leadership arena. This can translate into a lack of gender balance in clinical trials (i.e., more men than women), no gender-specific medication guidelines, and a lack of innovation in technology focused on women.
Critics of femtech often call it a niche area of digital health. But realistically, women make up approximately half of the global population, a market of nearly 3.73 billion worldwide.
Bridging the Gap
One of the problems that femtech startups have experienced is getting through to venture capitalists and convincing them that women’s health products are worth the investment. As most venture capitalist firms are made up primarily of men, there has been a lack of understanding or interest in femtech ideas.
Women’s health issues are rarely discussed openly, particularly by men. That makes pitching ideas involving menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, and sexual health quite a challenge. But in the last three or four years, femtech has begun to see a boom of interest from venture capitalists. Raising more than $241 million through venture capital funding opportunities just in 2019, femtech is only expected to grow.
Types of Femtech
Femtech covers an array of categories within its focus on women’s health. Menstruation tracking and care, pregnancy health, sexual health, fertility tracking, and tools focused on women-specific diseases are some of the major areas.
One startup is pursuing a way to use technology to diagnose endometriosis (a medical condition of the uterus that can cause intense pelvic pain and potential fertility issues). Another has created a smart pelvic floor trainer, and yet another has developed a silent, wearable breast pump. And that’s certainly not all. Numerous period tracker apps can be found in the Apple store or the Google Play marketplace, along with fertility trackers and family planning tools. With billions of women worldwide ready to use and benefit from these tools, it should come as no surprise that the industry is growing exponentially.
Femtech also covers a wide range of issues that disproportionately affect women more than men, including breast cancer, osteoporosis, certain autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, stroke, anxiety, and depression.
While the aforementioned critics of femtech have cited concerns about it being a niche market, others take particular issue with fertility tracking and solutions. If a couple is experiencing fertility issues, it can be related to the male or female in the relationship. It’s certainly not strictly a female-only problem—it’s a family problem.
Others are concerned that the use of the term femtech will alienate male investors or be used as an excuse for some people not to get involved. Perhaps, over time, the femtech label will be dropped. Certainly, with women representing over 50 percent of the global population, there’s no question this is a mainstream problem. And no one has started calling other digital health tools “mantech.” Perhaps it’s an unnecessary label, but for now, the good news is that the development of femtech tools is finally shining a light on overlooked aspects of women’s health.
Women are a huge customer segment for the healthcare industry. Not only do they make up more than half of the population, but according to Frost & Sullivan, 90 percent of women make the healthcare decisions for their families. They also make about 80 percent of the healthcare spending decisions. That makes women a hugely important customer for the entire healthcare industry. As we move into the next decade, femtech will likely continue to grow.