March 4, 2024

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Healthcare Costs Too High? Digital Health Tools Can Help.

The Biden administration announced a new initiative in November to boost research into women’s health. The announcement acknowledges a reality that many women have experienced firsthand: healthcare access is a growing challenge. Millions of women live in ‘healthcare deserts.’ Maternal mortality rates are on the rise. In recent research by the Consumer Technology Association, some 75% of women surveyed reported challenges in obtaining healthcare.

In short, American women are facing a healthcare crisis spurred by the high cost of services and a shortage of healthcare professionals. Nearly 40% of women say that high costs are a barrier to healthcare and almost a quarter struggle with limited appointment availability. The problem is especially dire for low-income women, who often struggle to access affordable health insurance, as well as women of color and women with chronic health conditions. Women are also more likely than men to be primary caregivers for children and the elderly, which adds extra challenges for those seeking treatment for health issues.  

There’s no easy, once-size-fits-all solution to improving women’s healthcare access. Still, as we work to lower the barriers to care, digital health tools will play an important role. Telehealth platforms like Teladoc or Wisp– increasingly integrated into insurance coverage – can be accessed from anywhere and don’t require women to take time off work and find transportation and childcare for appointments.

We’re all familiar with ‘wearables’ that can track your heart rate and step count, helping users better track health metrics. More recent advances go even further, from Abbott’s non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring to Amira’s wearable that detects and treats hot flashes to the fertility tracking capabilities built into the Oura ring. New in-home testing and diagnostics tools also empower users to manage their health between visits to a doctor’s office, offering a new model for low-acuity care and chronic disease management. 

There are already hundreds of technology products and platforms designed to support women’s health, and the market is poised to rapidly grow. Venture capitalists invested nearly $2 billion in women’s healthcare in 2022, and according to FemHealth Insights research, there has been a 1,000% increase in the number of businesses focused on women’s health over the past decade. That represents just a small slice of funding for all digital health solutions, which reached nearly $30 billion in 2021. That growth is matched by strong interest from current and potential users, with two in three women saying they believe digital health solutions are the future of health.

The next big challenge for adoption is cost. While many women have had positive experiences with digital health, most – more than 75% according to CTA’s survey – have only used free digital health tools. Current users are also disproportionately younger, higher income, and highly educated. To ensure that advances in digital health technology are broadly shared, digital health advocates should focus on a key benefit that resonates with many women – saving money. That means highlighting digital health tools that are low-cost or covered by insurance. Industry leaders will also benefit from transparency in their approach to data privacy and the risks around bias in AI-enabled digital health tools.

As traditional health companies seek to provide more specialized care and solutions for women, they can also take a lesson from many startups currently in the space: make sure you’re listening to the women you hope to serve! Technology can be empowering and revolutionary, but technological advances can’t replace consultations, focus groups with users and patients, or women-centric research and trials. To create technology that will transform women’s relationship with their health, companies need to understand the challenges women experience with healthcare conditions, concerns, access, communication, and affordability.

When our industry gets it right, digital health solutions give women access to the healthcare they deserve at a price they can afford. Technology that we already use every day – and even more coming soon – can help the health industry prioritize women’s needs. That’s not just good for women. It’s good for all of us.

By Kinsey Fabrizio

By Kinsey Fabrizio

Kinsey Fabrizio is Senior Vice President of CES and Membership at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the trade association representing the $505 billion U.S. consumer technology industry. CTA also owns and produces CES® — the world’s most powerful technology event.

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