Celebrating the NHS at 75: why investing in FemTech will guarantee a healthier future for all women - Thoughts from the Centre | Deloitte UK

By Karen Taylor, Director, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions

Deoitte-uk-lshc-blog-june23

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the NHS, it is an opportune moment to reflect on the progress made in healthcare, especially in addressing women’s healthcare needs. Technological advancements have revolutionised numerous aspects of our lives, and healthcare is no exception. FemTech (female technology), is a category of health technology designed to support and enhance women's health and wellness with potential to address health equity, diversity, and inclusion. However, although women control 80 per cent of healthcare decisions and spend 29 per cent more per capita on healthcare than men, only four per cent of healthcare R&D funding is targeted at women’s health. While awareness of the potential of the FemTech market is increasing, investment remains far too imbalanced and under-exploited.1 This blog explores how investing in FemTech innovation will provide a more equitable healthcare future for women everywhere.

The need for a women’s health category

Women play an influential role across the entire healthcare continuum as consumers, decision makers, healthcare professionals and caregivers. However, despite their significant contributions and unique healthcare needs, there has been a lack of investment in innovative solutions targeting women's health. Increasing concerns about this imbalance led to the concept of a women's digital health category, FemTech, which was first coined in 2016 to highlight the scale of the need and opportunities available.2

FemTech comprises a wide range of solutions that have been specifically designed for women including maternal health, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, as well as a number of general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently (such as osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease).

Throughout their lives, women regularly seek medical advice and support on everything from periods to contraception, pregnancy, fertility and breast-feeding, the menopause and incontinence. These visits take up a high percentage of a doctor’s time for conditions that could be self-managed. Remarkably, it’s taken until now to develop FemTech products that can help and empower women to deal with all of these aspects of their health largely by themselves.

Today, digital platforms have liberated discussions on women’s health by providing forums and support networks to openly discuss women’s sensitive health topics, reduce stigma and encourage women to seek care. Telehealth services have facilitated convenient access to clinical advice, particularly in areas with limited healthcare facilities.

However, until recently developers of innovative products aimed at tackling women’s health issues have struggled to get financial backing, with few solutions available on the market. This is now changing rapidly as FemTech begins to revolutionise women’s health by:    

  • helping de-stigmatise many aspects of women’s health—from menstruation to pelvic floor health to sexual wellness
  • empowering women to connect with and have more control over their bodies as never before
  • bridging the gap between patient-doctor relationships and self-care.

FemTech’s potential to redefine health

Today, increasing numbers of women are beginning to benefit from technological developments that enable them to take charge of their health, receive more personalised care, and make knowledgeable decisions about their body’s needs. Such developments are truly transformative, particularly for women who struggle to access healthcare services, whether due to geography, affordability or simply because of a poor healthcare infrastructure. Indeed, FemTech solutions, can help girls and women of all ages in all walks of life, take control of their health, wellbeing, and lives.

The rapid rise of FemTech since 2016 can be partly attributed to the convergence of a number of pivotal societal movements which have been vital in highlighting the inequalities that exist and in encouraging women to stand up for their rights and seek the care they deserve. This includes computerisation, miniaturisation and the digital technology and internet revolutions as well as networked feminism (including the #metoo movement) and improved access through virtual consultations and telemedicine.

While there are widely varying estimates of the size of the FemTech market today, most market analysts agree that the market is expected to grow at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 16 per cent. With one estimate suggesting the market might increase from $30 billion in 2022, to $60 billion in 2027.3 While this may sound like a lot, it’s not, especially when you consider that the sector comprises almost four billion women – it actually seems quite modest. Especially when you consider that women are 75 per cent more likely to use digital tools for healthcare compared to men.4

The imbalance in investment in women’s health

FemTech has the power to redefine healthcare by providing women with personalised, accessible, and convenient solutions tailored to their specific needs. FemTech also embodies the move to 4P healthcare as it enables interventions to be personalised, predictive, preventative and participatory. Nevertheless, despite having a higher profile in recent years, FemTech remains undervalued even though estimates suggest high growth potential. However, the pandemic and the prolonged lockdowns disproportionately impacted women’s health exposing a lack of solutions to women’s health issues and fuelling the popularity of online health tools, boosting the growth in FemTech.

Today, in line with the low R&D funding of women's health (four per cent), only 1.4 per cent of capital investment is in FemTech, with research showing that many male investors shy away from talking about or simply don’t understand the value proposition.   An analysis of the male-dominated investment landscape in 2021 found that almost 90 per cent of investment decisions were made by men.5 Consequently most FemTech companies are starved of the investment they need to function effectively.

The VC world is also used to big vision, massive growth projections, and unicorn promises with the chance of a very high financial upside. Female founders tend to be ‘more honest and conservative in their growth projections and are less likely to ask for outside funding than their male counterparts. For example, a survey of over 20,000 US small businesses, found only 25 per cent of women entrepreneurs sought financing over the lifespan of their business.6

FemTech is helping tackle diversity and health equity is paving the way for a bright outlook  

One of the most promising aspects of FemTech is its commitment to diversity and inclusion. By prioritising the health needs of women, including those from diverse backgrounds, FemTech aims to bridge healthcare disparities and ensure equal access for all. Innovators are actively working on solutions that cater to the specific needs of marginalised communities (such as maternal health). The paradigm shift towards an inclusive approach, promoting gender equity and amplifying voices that were previously unheard has led to an increase in angel investors and funds committed exclusively to women-led businesses, targeting a ‘positive social impact’.

Moreover, advancements in tech and availability of credible sources of information, enables technology to improve women’s health literacy and empowers them to take charge of their own health. Providing women with information, especially if started at a young age, digital technologies can help them better understand their own bodies and advocate for their own health while empowering them and improving health outcomes in the process.

Conclusion

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS, it is important to embrace the transformative potential of FemTech in improving women's health. FemTech empowers women to take control of their bodies, make informed decisions, seek appropriate care, and actively participate in managing their health and well-being. By providing personalised, accessible, and convenient solutions tailored to women's specific needs, FemTech not only offers significant opportunities for investors and companies in the healthcare sector but also ensures that women everywhere benefit from these emerging innovations. By supporting the FemTech movement, we can help ensure that, when it comes to celebrating the NHS@100, the historical neglect of women's health will be a distant memory.

Karen pic

Karen Taylor - Director, UK Centre for Health Solutions

Karen is the Research Director of the Centre for Health Solutions. She supports the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice by driving independent and objective business research and analysis into key industry challenges and associated solutions; generating evidence based insights and points of view on issues from pharmaceuticals and technology innovation to healthcare management and reform.

Email | LinkedIn

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1 Ida Tin - Wikipedia

2 Femtech Market Trends | Industry Statistics Report, 2023-2032 (gminsights.com)

3 Femtech is expansive—it’s time to start treating it as such | Rock Health

4 FemTech-Industry-2021-Report.pdf (dkv.global)

5 Women don’t ask: an investigation of start-up financing and gender: Venture Capital: Vol 20, No 2 (tandfonline.com)

6 Women don’t ask: an investigation of start-up financing and gender: Venture Capital: Vol 20, No 2 (tandfonline.com)

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