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Women’s health is starting to get more funding, finally

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Historically, companies focused on women’s health haven’t received much attention from investors, but a new Deloitte report shows signs of progress.

Even though women account for a little more than half of the U.S. population, companies focusing on women’s health typically haven’t received much funding from investors.

Image: Deloitte

Jen Radin of Deloitte says she's encouraged by the growing interest in funding for companies focusing on women's health. (Image: Deloitte)

But there are signs of progress, according to a new report on health tech investment trends Deloitte released today.

Investment in women’s health rose by 5% between 2022 and 2023, the report states.

To be sure, the funding for women’s health represents a miniscule percentage of the investment in healthcare. Women’s health represented just 2% of the $41.2 billion in venture funding that went to health companies in 2023, according to Deloitte’s analysis.

Nonetheless, Jen Radin, who leads Deloitte’s healthcare advisory practice across the U.S., says the gains represent an important sign of progress.

“I will say that what we have seen in the last year is an uptick,” Radin tells Chief Healthcare Executive®.

More importantly, Radin says she sees promise for better days for women’s health companies. More women founders are starting health tech companies, and there’s growing interest in a more diverse range of women’s health issues.

“We've also seen that more than 60% of women's health focused companies have been founded in just the last six years,” Radin says.

Growing and varied interest

In the health tech space, funding for women’s health rose from $459 million in 2022 to $481 million in 2023, an increase of 5%. That’s below the peak of $629 million in 2021, when health technology funding was higher across the board.

There are a number of reasons why women’s health hasn’t received much funding in the past. Most investment decisions have historically been made by men, and most venture capital companies are owned by men, Radin says.

But the emergence of more women’s health companies is moving the needle, and 3 of 4 women’s health companies have female founders or women in leadership, she notes.

Plus, there are sound business reasons for paying more attention to women’s health, because, as Radin says, women produce 100% of the U.S. population.

“Ensuring women have access to high quality, affordable women's centered care actually creates a more stable economy and society,” Radin says. “So the business case for women's health is really very clear.”

In addition to more money going to women’s health, Radin sees a pivot in funding which she finds encouraging.

Historically, more than a third of the women’s health market focused on fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, she says. Now, there are more investments in pelvic health, menstruation, menopause, mental health, and endometriosis, Radin says.

“These are things that haven't been terribly well researched. Now we're getting some interesting research in those categories,” Radin says.

In addition, America’s maternal health crisis is gaining more attention, especially with the startling rise in pregnancy-related deaths and complications in recent years. There’s also a growing realization of the chilling disparities in outcomes among Black women.

“There's a lot of focus on maternal health,” Radin says. “Many organizations across the country and across the ecosystem are really looking at the compelling mortality and morbidity and saying, ‘This is not okay.’”

She also sees a growing focus on research and education in the ways women experience different symptoms of common conditions. With heart attack symptoms, while men experience chest pain, women may suffer back pain, stomach pain, or even jaw pain, the Mayo Clinic notes.

Signs of optimism

Over the last two years, some founders of digital health companies have talked about the difficulties in finding financing. Now, health tech companies are starting to see some relief, Radin says.

“I am always an optimist, and I do hope that the uptick that we've seen continues,” she says.

“I do think that within the health ecosystem, plans, providers, retail … I think we're all really attuned to the need for increased investment in digital,” Radin says. “We can reach far more people through digital health solutions. We can reach them in ways that actually help clinical productivity and we know we have a shortage of both physicians and nurses in this country, a really significant one.”

Plus, there’s enormous interest in artificial intelligence, and interest in generative AI in particular, which also bodes well for growing digital health investments.

“Generative AI alone will also be a way of putting wind in the sails, if you will, because I think a lot of health companies in the ecosystem are really looking at it as a way of improving consumer connectivity and patient care, as well, as helping to reduce burnout for clinicians,” Radin says.

“I do think that we'll see greater investment in women's health and I do think that we'll see greater investment in digital health,” she adds.

More healthcare organizations are focusing on women’s health. Deloitte notes developments such as Atrium Health establishing a center for women’s cardiovascular health and Mass General Brigham Health Plan launching a women’s health portfolio.

In addition, the White House last week announced an investment of $100 million for women’s health research. First Lady Jill Biden made the announcement last Wednesday, and the money is coming from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, also known as ARPA-H. “Research on women’s health has always been underfunded,” Biden said last week.

Radin points to the White House investment as another positive development for women’s health companies.

“If I was a women's innovator or a woman starting up a women's health company, I would be very, very optimistic right now, understanding that there will be a way to apply for this funding very shortly,” Radin says.

Read more: How women can improve their chance of becoming CEOs


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