Historically, women have played powerful roles in caregiving. For millennia, it has primarily been women who have tended the sick, nursed the wounded, and cared for the aged and infirm. In the modern health industry, however, the role of females in caregiving has largely been usurped. For decades, men have dominated the healthcare industry, disproportionally occupying leadership positions, although women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce.
In recent years, though, that trend has begun to subside, with ever-increasing numbers of women assuming decision-making authority over vast health systems and even launching their own health startups. The field of health technology, in particular, has been powerfully shaped by female entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders. Indeed, women today are reimagining the field of health tech and, in so doing, they are revolutionizing healthcare for all.
Why It Matters
The ascendancy of women in the field of health tech meets a profound and long-neglected need for greater gender parity within the medical system. Research has shown, for example, that gender bias persists within the health industry, compromising the quality of care that female patients receive.
The data show, for example, that healthcare providers are far more likely to dismiss, minimize, or misinterpret women’s symptoms, especially their pain, than the symptoms of men. This puts female patients at an elevated risk of potentially life-threatening misdiagnoses.
However, it is not only the persistence of gender bias that contributes to erroneous or delayed diagnoses. Medical research continues to be based principally on the default male patient. Likewise, medical textbooks and curricula rarely address the unique physiology of women. Therefore, practitioners are often left unequipped to recognise the unique symptomology and disease etiology of women.
This is where the influence of female-led innovation in the field of health tech is most apparent. Women inventors, business leaders, and healthcare executives are devising and/or instituting new technologies designed to remediate existing gender disparities in both medical research and practice.
One of the most important ways that women are reimagining the field of health tech is through the development of innovative technologies designed to personalize healthcare. For example, female-led tech startups such as FemTech Health are using artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and infrastructures to perform advanced health data analytics centring on the unique health needs of female users.
These tools help to address the knowledge gaps regarding women’s health that emerged from traditional medical research models, with their principal focus on male subjects.
In addition to optimizing the collection of female health data, health tech firms also support personalized care through the use of interactive content. Platform users may engage with health chatbots or complete online quizzes and assessments to help them identify their unique health needs and to formulate highly individualized prevention and care strategies. This is a powerful innovation in a medical system historically designed by and for men.
Nanomedicine is another exciting domain of health tech that promises to transform the way that illness is detected, managed, and prevented. It’s an off-shoot of the nanotechnology industry, an industry in which women are playing a leading role.
Importantly, nanomedicine is exhibiting immense potential across a range of functions, from medical imaging to the delivery of targeted therapies, such as high-dose radiation or chemotherapy injected directly into a tumor site.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Once upon a time, virtual reality (VR) was largely thought of as the domain of gamers. Today, however, VR technologies are also increasingly being used in the field of medicine, from facilitating surgical training to enhancing patient care strategies.
Significantly, women are at the forefront of VR innovation as well. The same technologies, for example, that might once have been used to simulate a game space can be used to simulate the home or community of a patient recovering from a brain injury or neurodegenerative disease. Time spent working with the VR simulation can help these patients regain motor and ambulatory function, balance, and spatial orientation and may even increase their ability to recognise, navigate, and recall their living environment
Caregiving was once the principal domain of women. The modern healthcare industry, however, often delegated leadership and decision-making authority to men. Today, however, women are once again taking charge of the caring profession. For these women, though, it is often in the role of health tech entrepreneur and innovator that they find their greatest purpose and power. In the process, these women are reimagining and revolutionizing the field of health tech in particular and of healthcare in general. These innovations are helping to bridge important gaps when it comes to medical knowledge concerning women’s health. These technologies are also giving rise to unprecedented capacities for personalized care, including through the use of AI-driven data analytics and interactive content. In addition, these technologies are optimizing the quality of care for all through state-of-the-art therapeutics, from nanomedicine to VR simulations.