On Thursday 25 May, DigitalHealth.London and the Health Innovation Network hosted a workshop at Intelligent Health UK 2023, on the future of women’s healthcare and technology.
It’s not a secret that finally, after years of being overlooked, women’s health is having its moment and Femtech and AI are set to shape healthcare. This workshop focussed on where are we now, what has been achieved so far and what the next steps are. The discussion highlighted how to drive FemTech innovation and unlock new opportunities in women’s healthcare with technology and AI.
We heard from two leaders in the space who are also DigitalHealth.London alumni:
Justyna Strzeszynsk is Founder & CEO of Joii. Joii’s goal is to empower every woman and person who menstruates to experience their best menstrual wellbeing, through their groundbreaking research, innovative period products and cutting-edge technology.
Justyna joined the panel and shared here views on the challenge’s facing women’s health and where FemTech can help solve these. She highlighted that there is a lack of female representation in clinical trials, both historically and still today. The resultant lack of data is a problem for those working to innovate in this space. Justyna also highlighted the challenges that come with public opinion on AI. For example, the recent news stories around ChatGPT have generated a level of panic and mistrust with AI, both with investors and the general public.
Despite this she has seen different FemTech companies emerging, including a high number in the period tracking space, and the potential is huge for innovation in the area.
Pahini Pandya, CEO & Co-Founder of Panakeia Technologies, also joined the panel. Panakeia provides comprehensive ‘omics’ molecular analysis of patient tissues significantly faster and cheaper than other methods. They are creating AI-technology to provide biomarker information directly from H&E-stained tissue images and have started with their breast cancer diagnostic tool.
Pahini shared what she felt the future of women’s health might look like and her belief that the use of AI, and technology more generally, in healthcare has the potential to accelerate and overcome a lot of the gaps that we see currently. She also flagged that there is increasing knowledge and awareness around bias in AI, and that there are now FDA requirements around diversity in clinical trials, including gender diversity. Although there is still much more to be done, these development are creating early foundations upon which we can built.
Following the panel discussion, the audience split into groups to discuss two key questions:
- Where are the biggest opportunities for innovation in women’s health?
All participants agreed that data is a huge area of potential in women’s health innovation. One group suggested that AI could be used to analyse patient records and automatically identify people who could be matches for certain studies, to ask them with permission if they’d like to take part. It was also highlighted that collection of data could be used to empower women with evidence and information which they can then take to their doctor to discuss.
It was also identified that more could be done to support companies and innovators to develop technologies in key areas of women’s health. Specific suggestions included technology to help identify risk of early pregnancy loss, as well as tech in the management of pain for women.
2. What’s the best way to encourage more innovation in women’s health?
Education was a key factor for our audience and the importance of reeducating people on what is normal and what is not in women’s health. It was thought that empowering women to share their stories would encourage more innovation, as well as centres of excellence that could provide an example of what good looks like.
The lack of diversity in technology founders was highlighted as an issue, as well as the gap in investment in women-led businesses. Government backed schemes that encourage diversity within founders could be a possible solution to this.
DigitalHealth.London is a partner of the Accelerating FemTech initiative, being led by the Health Innovation Network.
Sign up now for the Accelerating FemTech: Accelerate 101 webinar to find out more about the accelerator programme for early-stage companies: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/642274439137
Check out the different events happening across June on a variety of different women’s health topics: https://healthinnovationnetwork.com/projects/accelerating-femtech/