The direct-to-consumer (DTC or D2C) healthcare space is here to stay. More companies will pop up that will hack the way healthcare is delivered. The femtech space is a niche that has been ignored for a long time but has gained strong traction. Let’s talk about how you as a physician might fit in this femtech space.
The services or the tech that’s offered isn’t anything that’ll blow us away as physicians. It’s the marketing and the branding that has made all the difference. And for physicians interested in the femtech space it’s important for us to understand how this market is evolving.
If I’m a 19-year-old female, chances are I don’t want to go to some old wrinkly due or some old conservative lady who’s gonna chastise me the way my religious parents might. I want clean, unadulterated information about my vagina and I may want birth control or acne meds, or mental health support.
If you’re a 19-year-old female you are fully aware that the feminine health aisle at the pharmacy and grocery stores are just trying to shame you into thinking that something is wrong with your netherregions. Vagisil is trying to make you smell like a damn room deodorizer.
What’s worse than Vagisil getting away with this kind of marketing and branding is that you get the same treatment at your doctor’s office. Here is the truth son, doctors know a lot about what they have been taught and what they see a lot. We don’t know much about taboo topics or things that our patients are too embarrassed to bring up to us.
I just finished listening to a podcast by some supposed women’s health expert who is on national TV and has written books, etc. The information she was providing to a mostly clinical audience was half wrong. Her diagnostic criteria for BV and how it’s transmitted and some of the treatment options she mentioned were outdated information. So you can’t trust the talking heads either.
You can look up the definition of femtech yourself. But think of it as the digital healthcare space for women. From acne to birth control to menopause to post-partum depression.
It is untapped as untapped can be. You might disagree, after all, there is:
- Mira Fertility tracking
- Nurx Online BC and emergency contraception
- Bonzun IVF app
- Maven Women’s health clinic
- Hera Med Pregnancy care
- LactApp Lactation app
- Elvie Innovative breast pump
- Gennev Menopause
Check out the Medical Futurist for more great topics on femtech and healthcare tech.
I remember when I ordered a Toradol injection for the patient to pick up and self-administer at home at Kaiser Permanente. I got hell unleashed on myself. I got an email and a call from the head of neurology. The DUAT team started a cavity search – it was a mess.
This all happened because the Kaiser leadership believed that you cannot give a Toradol injection kit to a patient. Well, and because it was expensive.
Nurx, on the other hand, believes that patients can self-administer their Depo Shots. That’s the innovation. I know, sad to call this innovation but remember that we are sort of in the middle ages when it comes to medicine.
Imagine you could snap your fingers and your female patients suddenly said that they loved xyz. What would xyz be? Think about birth control, menstruation, mental health, migraines, acne, breastfeeding, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis, degenerative arthritis, and hair loss. Anything that your female patients would complain of most.
The innovation you can bring to the femtech space is the product with which you can lead your consulting career or begin your healthcare startup.
Physicians in Femtech
You may not be able to think of ideas off the bat to lead the space in femtech but if you deal with female patients you certainly understand the space far better than some CEO nerd.
We deal with auto-immune disease, depression, abuse, migraines, weight gain, and dyspareunia. Each one of these is its own niche space. Each one of these could benefit from some new way of addressing the issue.
The physician doesn’t just prescribe. We support the patient, we educate them, we empower them, we review current guidelines, we perform interventions, and we refer patients. These are all steps that need improvement in our current healthcare model.
Consulting or Cofounder
Let’s say that I want to tackle cervical cancer in women. Or we could go with vaginal odor. Or with vulvar skin lesions. I want to keep it broad to drive home the point.
You may want to lead a startup because of your previous management experience and go to a venture capital company and pitch your idea.
Or maybe being a founder isn’t the right flavor for you. Instead, you connect with someone with previous startup experience in healthcare and you become the cofounder.
Don’t like that? You can demote yourself all the way down to a consultant. Welcome to my world. I learn as much as I can about a certain topic and I reach out to different companies who might benefit from my input and I charge them an hourly rate to help improve their workflows or products.
Becoming an Expert in Femtech
There is no fast-tracking this step. In order to be an expert in the femtech space, you should know more than the average gynecologist or obstetrician. Which actually isn’t hard to achieve.
Your information can come from a mix of Uptodate and online journals. More importantly, you should be devouring all of the patient sites where individuals talk about their personal journey with cervical cancer, vaginal odor, or vulvar lesions.
Next, this physician leader in femtech must have a digital resume. You would either write about this topic, interview other experts on your podcast, or create engaging YouTube videos.
You don’t need to know everything. That’s not possible. But you want to know as much as someone who is doing research on the topic. And the content you create will make it apparent as to whether you can communicate with a non-physician audience. Can you relate to the end-consumer? A researcher? A CTO or CEO?
Evolution of Femtech
As with any new market space, at first, there will be a lot of competitors. The space gets a bit saturated and some companies will drop off. Some other companies will get the majority of media coverage but aren’t necessarily the most profitable or most effective.
Do you need to be the leader in your femtech space? Nope. Just like you don’t have to be the only cafe or grocery store to make a profit. You can exist alongside Nurx and even bite their style and instead market to a more local audience.
We are still in the quasi-taboo space of femtech. Not a lot of companies are addressing emergency contraception, abortions, rape, sexual disorders, transgender postop care, etc.
The next evolution would be selling products to patients. I’m not a big of this because it’s often gimmicky. But expect Nurx to partner up with other tech companies and whitelabel some gizmo to measure or track something on the patient’s body.
Your Interests in Femtech
Are you interested in women’s health?
What aspect do you know the most about?
What topics do you know the least about?
What problems do female patients need solving?
Who is your target audience?
Is your target audience in the US or abroad?
What are that target audience’s education and income level?
Who is already doing what you’re interested in?
Who is doing it well or poorly and what could be changed about their process?
Who is your payer, the insurance company, the patient, or their employer?
Why would you enter the femtech space? Greed, curiosity, boredom, a challenge?
Where to Start
The best place to start is by writing, speaking, and recording your thoughts about this space. It’ll help you zoom into what really interests you. Without that online presence, you’ll have a hard time getting any traction unless you have an impressive pedigree.
Next, connect with other physicians in the women’s health space. LinkedIn is a great resource for this and you can get some good ideas by looking at other successful profiles.
If you know someone doing research in bladder incontinence, you might start with that person. Chances are they are well connected and can put you in touch with other people in that space.