What is 'Femtech,' and how is it changing women’s healthcare?

By Jules Murtha | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published September 26, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • “Femtech” is a term coined by ovulation app creator Ida Tin to encompass a range of digital technologies and services that aim to address women’s health issues.

  • Digital health could help increase gender equity by creating greater access to healthcare and empowering women with knowledge of their own health data. However, much of this technology could potentially leave women of ethnic or racial minorities behind.

  • Research shows that apps like MyHealthyPregnancy help address physician-patient communication issues that could lead to pregnancy complications, especially among Black patient populations.

Reckoning with gender inequities in healthcare has led to the development of digital health technologies catering to women’s unique health needs, collectively known as “Femtech.”

Doctors may find certain aspects of Femtech to be useful for overcoming communication challenges with patients to help maximize quality of care.

Modern solution to historical problem

Femtech (short for "female technology") refers to the conglomerate of digital health technologies, products, services, and software developed to address women’s health issues.

According to an article published by Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the term was coined by Ida Tin, who created a period and ovulation tracking app in Germany in 2013 called Clue.[] Since then, women’s digital health has continued to expand.

In 2019 alone, the Femtech industry produced $820.6 million in global revenue. The market is expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2024, suggesting even further growth.

Examples of Femtech include fertility tracking apps, self-help apps designed to address the pressures and anxieties associated with pregnancy, and proactive approaches to menopause.

Mobile Femtech

Femtech doesn’t have to exist solely on a phone.

Wearable breast pumps are another example of Femtech, as noted by healthcare development expert Yael Misrahi, a healthcare development expert and head of global partnerships at MobileODT, in an interview published by MobileODT.com.[] This is because they allow women to engage in daily activities—and even return to work—soon after giving birth by eliminating the hassle of finding a “hiding” place to pump near an electrical outlet.

Misrahi, explained the significance of such products in the MobileODT interview.

"Femtech is about more than just creating profitable products for women."

Yael Misrah, MobileODT

“It is about innovating products that fill a need for women in a way that is effective, coming from a process where women were involved in the design,” she added.

Closing gender gaps in medicine

Although Femtech's profitability is beginning to soar, is it really necessary? Experts believe the answer is yes.

Historically, women’s health has either been overlooked or grouped with men’s health. As noted in an article published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine, women’s health issues and sex differences are largely under-investigated.[]

FemTech has the potential to address key biological and social differences between men and women through digital health technology, and may therefore improve women’s health and well-being.

Addressing inequities in Femtech

Although the concept of addressing women’s health issues with digital technology is promising, it has shortcomings that need troubleshooting.

According to an article published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Femtech industry mostly caters to health-literate, cisgender, White women.[] Women of socioeconomic privilege may therefore benefit the most from Femtech, while those of more marginalized identities are less accounted for.

It's important for the needs of other patient groups to be addressed by the new technologies. Black patients, for example, are 60% more likely than White women to give birth prematurely.

Additionally, the Journal of Medical Internet Research article found that Black patients are less likely to ask their doctors questions, and their doctors are less likely to listen to them (compared with non-Hispanic White patients) when they do ask. Physician-patient communication challenges may therefore prevent Black patients from receiving the care they need.

Helpful pregnancy app

One option for providing individualized support during pregnancy is the mobile app called MyHealthyPregnancy. This combines a patient-facing smartphone app with a provider portal that incorporates the patient’s electronic health record, according to the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

MyHealthy Pregnancy collects patient data and utilizes algorithms to detect the presence of modifiable risks for preterm birth that may arise between prenatal care visits. When a risk is identified, the app contacts the patient’s doctor, and it also sends the patient sensitive (but actionable) strategies to help minimize it.

This app’s development was heavily influenced by a group of racially diverse, socioeconomically disadvantaged women to target the issues they face in pregnancy that might otherwise go unaddressed.

Femtech is still a rapidly developing industry.

Although it has the potential to empower women in terms of their healthcare, it is also in need of fine-tuning to be sure it does not perpetuate inequities in healthcare interactions for more marginalized patients.[]

What this means for you

Femtech refers to the growing field of digital health technologies, services, and software designed to tackle women’s health issues, which have been historically overlooked. Although shifting the focus to address the unique needs of women’s health and disease prevention is crucial to improving their quality of life, the current technologies are largely designed for health-literate, cisgender, White women. Femtech tools can play a role in improving care and reducing reproductive and other health disparities.

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In our Women's Health Focus feature, we'll offer insights and practical guidance to support you in providing the comprehensive and personalized care that women need throughout their life stages. We invite you to submit any topic you'd like to see covered and let us know if you'd like to be a guest author.

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