Femtech 2022: International Women’s Day – Celebrating Women’s Health | Knowledge

Although women represent half of the world’s population, many aspects of health relating specifically to women are still irrelevant to mainstream scientific research and underrepresented in clinical studies and medical recommendations, resulting in diagnostic errors and biases in research, diagnoses and therapies for patients. In recognition of the need to develop and promote technologies and tools focused on the specific needs of women’s health, the term “FemTech” is becoming a standard term. The FemTech landscape covers technological solutions such as, among others, applications, trackers, digital tools and software solutions as well as the development of diagnostic and treatment options for women with regard to general diseases, such as than cardiovascular disease, for which women develop different symptoms and have traditionally been underdiagnosed or mistreated.

Building on this, regulators and policy makers in Europe, including the UK, France and Switzerland, have declared the need to de-stigmatize women’s health and ensure that clinical practice receives and reflects the contributions women. Proposals for the development of policies for women’s health in European countries focus on the following objectives to achieve equal representation of women in the ranks of the health system:

  • Health systems more broadly need to create methodologies, such as joint commissioning systems, to establish equal access to sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Accurate and timely diagnosis is a key area for improvement, as there is great disparity due to the male-centric factors and outcomes applied in the diagnosis of women, who may present with an entirely different set of symptoms than men for women. same conditions.
  • More targeted research can fill existing gaps in evidence and inform diagnostic criteria and surveillance.
  • An important component of this mission will be not only to increase diversity within clinical studies, but also to create methodologies and analyzes that focus on differences due to ethnicity, age, gender and geography.
  • When artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are used, these should be built and trained on fair principles.

It is therefore not surprising that in some countries, women’s health has become a clear political priority with announcements of changes to come. Below are some recent key initiatives.

UK

The United Kingdom (UK) can be seen as a model. On May 12, 2021, the UK Minister for Innovation hosted a roundtable discussion on FemTech titled “Strategy for Women’s Health – Health Technology” following the UK Government’s call for submissions on the strategy for Women’s Health which ended in June 2021. Feedback received informed the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) Vision for Women’s Health Strategy for England, which was published on 23rd December 2021, with the full strategy to be published in the spring of this year. It is based on nearly 100,000 consultation responses from individual women and over 400 responses from organizations and healthcare professionals in the sector. This is the first attempt at a “live” policy document in the women’s health space.

Alongside this initiative, the UK has recently set up the UK Menopause Task Force, which aims to improve support for postmenopausal women, particularly in the workplace. The UK government has commissioned a report, ‘Menopause and employment: how to enable a fulfilling working life’, which was published on 25 November 2021 and will guide policy development by the UK government.

Health education is another key area to address in order to facilitate a better understanding of women’s health issues. It has been suggested that the digital resources available in the UK National Health Service (NHS) digital system could be used to provide accessible digital information to patients and healthcare professionals. In turn, this information will spark conversations about the systemic changes needed to support women.

France

The French initiative concerning endometriosis is another notable example. In early 2022, the president announced a national endometriosis strategy. By allocating expert endometriosis centers in each region and providing national funding, the plan aims to improve understanding and awareness of this debilitating disease and improve diagnostic and treatment options.

Switzerland

In Switzerland, FemTech plays an important role in the life sciences industry. According to FemTech Analytics’ Global FemTech Industry Report, Switzerland is a hub for technology companies focused on women’s health. According to the data, more than half of these continental European companies are located in Switzerland. The Swiss market represents an excellent opportunity for the FemTech industry because it is highly developed both technologically and structurally. As a major pharmaceutical location, host to one of the largest medical device industries and home to many pioneering technical universities, Switzerland is a valuable breeding ground for emerging FemTech companies. One of the most recognized Swiss universities in the world, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and a Swiss health insurance company, Groupe Mutuel, show how cooperation between different actors can influence women’s health. EPFL and Groupe Mutuel have joined forces to launch Tech4Eva, the first startup acceleration program dedicated to women’s health in Switzerland. This program aims to help selected startups develop innovative solutions to improve technologies related to women’s health and refine their business models accordingly.

Investment outlook

According to global consultancy Frost & Sullivan, the international FemTech market is expected to reach US$50 billion by 2025. However, FemTech remains an area of ​​underinvestment and, according to PitchBook, only 4% of all research and development in the field of health are specifically targeting women’s health issues. Thus, the lack of funding remains a major challenge for the FemTech industry. And while promising changes and activities are emerging, fledgling FemTech companies still face challenges when communicating the value and purpose of their products within health systems and when seeking investment. .

Nevertheless, as private investors and government organizations are involved in financing, the sector is expected to flourish in Switzerland. We were thrilled to chat with Loulia Kassem and Erick Garcia-Cordero, co-founders of Swiss-based FemTech REA, about the obstacles they had to overcome during the history of their young company and their visions for the future. future of FemTech (please see our brief and insightful interview here: FemTech in the Spotlight – An Interview with REA’s Co-Founders).

With today’s high demand for technology solutions for women’s health, women spend an estimated $500 billion a year on health and women, according to Frost & Sullivan, are up to 85% more likely to use digital tools in healthcare than men, we expect this market to witness significant growth in the coming years. Recognizing and targeting the specific needs of women will broaden understanding of women’s health needs, initiate social change around stigmatized health topics, and empower women to take charge of their health. In short, in 2022, it’s time to put women’s health in the spotlight, and we expect investments to further stimulate research and development of treatments for women’s health.