For centuries, across the globe, women have played an invaluable role in healthcare. Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Marie Curie, Mary Walker—the list goes on and on.
And it’s no different now: roughly 80% of healthcare decisions made in and for a family are made by a woman in the family,1 and most healthcare related jobs are held by women.2 Yet despite all this, only around a fifth of health executives are women. In 2017, not a single woman was serving as a CEO of a Fortune 500 healthcare company, and only 22.1% of their board members were female—a mere 1.1% increase since 2015—meaning we won’t reach 50/50 gender equality on healthcare boards until 2049, if we carry on at this rate.3
Yet one area within healthcare has seen a remarkable increase in gender parity in recent years: digital health start-ups. A number of inspirational female entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the space, with women making up nearly a quarter of the CEOs in these companies in 2016.3 So has the recent surge in health tech innovations brought with it the fading of traditional stereotypes and mentalities? This may be up for debate, but there’s no doubt that women are leading the digital start-up revolution in healthcare.
One such woman is Kate Ryder, founder of Maven. Ryder founded the digital start-up back in 2014, when she began to notice the gaps that exist within healthcare, and in particular, when women start to have a family. She asked herself, why is it so difficult for women to handle fertility problems, get postpartum care, or access birth control? And why does the US have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world?4
Ryder felt inspired to create a better, more cohesive healthcare experience for women. So, she created Maven: a digital clinic for women; bridging gaps in care by providing instant access to a network of over 1,000 womens’ and family health providers. Users can chat with every kind of practitioner—from OB-GYN, to pediatricians, to nutritionists—by video, text, or in person. With such a wide range of specializations, users can be easily referred to other practitioners within the Maven network, based on their specific needs. In addition, Maven offers a family benefits platform for companies, which helps soon-to-be parents with fertility, pregnancy, postpartum and return-to-work challenges. Working families can receive unlimited access to the Maven network, as well as a personal contact who can help them with everything from egg freezing to childcare options.4
Another woman at the forefront of the health tech world is Sally Poblete, founder and CEO of Wellthie. After a 20-year career as a healthcare executive, Poblete stepped down to launch a company of her own, driven by her passion for building people’s confidence in health insurance and healthcare itself. So, in 2013, she launched Wellthie: a cloud-based platform that provides simplified health insurance solutions for small businesses and their employees through insurance brokers.5
Poblete’s aim was to make selecting and paying for health insurance a hassle-free, straightforward process for consumers. So how did she do it? Her first step was to remodel the marketplace, by aggregating plans from insurance companies and licensing its software to brokers (who then work with small businesses), to create a first-of-its-kind platform. The algorithms within the Wellthie system mean customers can be matched to a suitable selection of insurance plans, based on their personal data and responses. Brokers can then access the platform, and use its tools to simplify the often-confusing language used throughout the plan, making it easy to digest for both the small business and their customers.5 The platform has also recently partnered with Teladoc, so brokers can now easily quote and enroll customers in its telehealth services, offering them the ability to consult a physician in the comfort of their own home.6
Poblete has successfully created a platform that meets the unmet needs of nearly six million small businesses, and the employees they purchase health insurance for.7 Like Ryder, she recognized a huge potential for providing simpler, more efficient solutions in the healthcare space. And in turn, both women demonstrated how an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare system, combined with the utilization of data and new technologies, can lead to innovative, effective digital health solutions.
To find out more about digital health, and the potential for collaboration between the healthcare and technology industries, explore our first whitepaper in the respiratory care_v2.0 series, ‘Technology and Healthcare: A call for collaboration’, and stay informed on the latest in healthcare innovation with our updates.