Femtech: Technology dedicated to improving women’s health with specialty online services



The pandemic opens up innovations for testing and treatment

technology, women's health, online services

You can now use Internet video calls with medical professionals to get a prescription for contraceptives, test yourself for STDs, consult with a midwife, or get personalized treatment for migraines. As more women sit on the boards of tech companies, and COVID-19 makes in-person doctor visits less desirable, digital practices specializing in women’s health are booming.

Nurx, a San Francisco-based telehealth company specializing in reproductive health, just raised $22.5 million to increase its patient base and add new “sensitive” services, including remote evaluation of headaches and migraines, which affect three times as many women as men, notes business website Pulse 2.0. Nurx already serves 300,000 patients on a monthly basis, connecting patients, medical providers, and pharmacies in a single online platform. Its physicians can prescribe contraceptives, send clients test kits for STIs, and address herpes and HIV, services that can be difficult to access and often carry shame and stigma. The practice also accepts health insurance and offers affordable pricing for patients without insurance.

While many routine medical checkups have been postponed due to the pandemic, such delays are not an option for pregnant women. Poppy Seed Health offers webinars and 24/7 text support to connect pregnant and postpartum women with a doula, midwife, or nurse. The business has grown 140 percent since the quarantine began. Another firm, Nuvo, goes a step farther by providing pregnant clients with wearable devices that capture maternal and fetal vitals, which are transmitted to a clinician for monitoring.

Such businesses are supported by Rhia Ventures, a firm that raises capital for underfunded areas of women's health, commonly called “femtech” in the investment field.

One issue these companies are facing is how to serve low-income women. Poppy Seed takes a portion of its earnings to subsidize its ability to accept Medicaid. The company's founder, Simmone Taitt, said her service actually makes working with a doula, who can not only advise but also advocate for clients, considerably more affordable.

“What I think has been fascinating during this particular period of COVID,” Elizabeth Bailey of Rhia Ventures told the investment website Worth, “is that access is now an issue for everyone. It has shined this really bright light on inequities but also shined the light on potential solutions around access for everyone.”

Debra Bass of Nuvo Group America pointed out that investment in health technologies for women has had low priority in the past, but she sees women moving into leadership roles in banking and health care, and she expects they will continue to help femtech grow.




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