Fertility, pregnancy, postpartum problems, pedometers, checking medical reports online, booking medical visits: these are the major aspects dealt with by the vast majority of technological solutions dedicated to women’s health.
ONDA (the Italian monitoring centre for women’s health and gender health) conducted a survey, on a sample of 722 women aged from 18 to over 55, concerning the Internet and health, which proved that digital solutions play an ambivalent role in the life of women, in terms of health-related issues. On the one hand, the web provides crucial information and is the channel mostly used by women to gather information on health: 71% of the interviewed women claimed they resort to this solution to get hold of information, and while 85% of women currently uses – or has used, in the past – at least one health-related app, no single app is used by more than 45% of the sample.
The ONDA monitoring centre is not the only institution that is studying a sector (femtech) that many companies find palatable. Indeed, these services may reach almost one billion women. As the new Research2Guidance report suggests, competition is on the rise and there are currently over 3,000 digital solutions dedicated to women’s health, available in a number of segments. In the United States alone, total investment in women’s health apps has topped 220 million dollars. The majority of producers still mainly focus on one single segment of women’s health. Overlapping between market segments is rare: very few companies have broadened their portfolio to cover two or three segments, such as fertility, pregnancy and postpartum.
With more than 1,000 dedicated apps, fertility is the largest and most competitive digital market segment dedicated to women’s health. The fierce competition makes it difficult to enter the market, which has now been cornered: the first five fertility market players account for almost 70% of world users of fertility management solutions.
Femtech is a sector that is expected to be worth fifty billion dollars by 2025. The femtech wording (“feminine technology”) was used for the first time by the Danish businesswoman who thought up the app Clue, one of the most popular period and ovulation trackers. Apps such as these – fertility calendars and digital systems that help track ovulation – are currently at the core of the femtech business. But the sector is more vast than you might imagine: it also comprises small medical devices, connected to the Internet, which monitor hormonal fluctuations, wearable devices connected to dedicated apps providing specific functions and even smart tampon apps and sexy toy apps. After all, the ultimate goal is eHealth, namely the possibility of putting cutting-edge technology to good use for medical-health solutions.
And yet – or perhaps, because of this – the entire sector is under special surveillance owing to the implications it may have, in many different ways: from the excessive standardisation of algorithms (which would make any woman not falling within the established standards feel somewhat uncomfortable – for example, the 28-day rule for the menstrual cycle) and some apps accused of being chauvinist (guilty of spreading a man’s stereotypical view of women’s bodies and health), to even more serious issues, such as menstrual surveillance and the use of personal data for purposes other than the ones for which they were gathered, without the user even knowing.