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Trends in digital health: Technology in women’s health event

Welcome to the Bristows "Trends in digital health" article series. Over the next few weeks, we will explore some of the hot topics within the sector starting with our first article, below, on one of the fastest growing sub-sectors: FemTech.

What is FemTech? 

The term “FemTech” is used to describe a subset of companies in the health tech industry which focus on women’s health, often headed by female CEOs. The “FemTech” phrase is not favoured by all who work in the sector, with some preferring “Women’s Health Technology”, but we will use the term in this article for ease of reference.

Increasing numbers of women are seeking to take control of their health via a multitude of new apps and devices. From tracking their menstrual cycle or pregnancy, testing their fertility and monitoring their peri-menopause indicators, to logging symptoms to assist in getting a diagnosis for an under-diagnosed condition such as endometriosis, these apps are empowering women by providing increased access to information about women’s health. Investment firms are starting to take note; according to McKinsey, $2.5 billion was invested in the sector in 2021, up from $1.4 billion in pre-pandemic times[1].

In January 2023, Bristows held a panel event for those working in or interested in the women’s health tech sector, to discuss and explore the current landscape of the industry. Our panel was chaired by Xisca Borrás, Life Sciences Regulatory partner at Bristows. She was joined by panellists Helen O’Neill (Founder and CEO of Hertility), Sioned Jones (co-founder and COO of BoobyBiome) and Barbara Domayne-Hayman (Crick Institute’s Entrepreneur in residence and Director of its accelerator programme for early stage start-ups, KQ Labs).

Below we set out three key takeaways from the event:


Although the area is rapidly growing, the available funding from venture capital and other investment firms is not yet matching funding needs, with a growing number of applicants in this field looking to join the KQ Labs kick-starter programme each year. This appears to be for a number of reasons:

  • traditional biomedical investors can find it challenging to delve into the world of big tech or deep machine learning, whilst on the other side of the same coin habitual tech investors who are interested in the health side are often concerned about the additional life sciences regulations in this sector, with which they are unfamiliar.
  • many of the issues these companies address are topics which are often still considered “taboo” despite being relevant to over half of the population, and this can lead to discomfort among (mainly male) investors making the funding decisions when discussing the companies and their products, there were anecdotes from the panel where funders didn’t even want to say the names of certain companies if they were considered too “explicit”.
  • companies in this space are currently seeing more investment than in the past, but there is a concern that this is due to “FemTech” being a buzzword within the health tech world at the moment. The worry is that once the bandwagon passes and the next trendy topic comes along, the sub-sector will be forgotten or passed over in favour of other minority areas as a “tick-box” exercise. However if the investments provide a favourable return, the current “trend” could lead to a long-term sea change.

As women make up more than 50% of the population, there is clearly an enormous market to tap into and if entrepreneurs and investors take advantage of this, it could lead to an uptick in VC investment. Just one or two women’s health unicorns would break the stigma and transform attitudes, at which point we will likely see an avalanche of these types of companies.


FemTech is very reliant on having sufficient relevant data in order to meet research and product development objectives. However, there is a lack of scientific data relating to women’s illnesses and reproductive health cycles, which historically haven’t been the focus of medical and research communities. Often, the FemTech companies themselves need to bridge this data gap.

Although there is currently a degree of public discomfort and lack of trust regarding tech company access to NHS health data due to concerns around data being sold for commercial use, the panellists reported that when small, female-run businesses focussing on women’s health reach out to women to use their data, they are often met with enthusiasm and positivity. Indeed, they found that most are excited to be asked and included in research that will reflect the female experience and could bring about cures/therapies/medicines designed with women and their needs in mind.

The next focus needs to be on ensuring that female data that is collected going forward covers a diverse intersection of women, to ensure it allows useful conclusions for all. (For further information on avoiding bias and increasing diversity in AI, see our previous article on this topic). 

Regulatory Landscape 

A significant challenge for health tech companies is the stringent, and often complex, regulatory landscape. In particular, challenges with navigating medicines and medical device regulations can prove an even more significant barrier to entry when developing products that target novel and historically overlooked areas of women’s health research, where the regulatory landscape can be unclear.

FemTech companies are often relying on rich health data sets, either obtained from the NHS or supplemented/gathered in-house. The collection, processing and use of personal data is subject to data protection laws and given the sensitive nature of the data, it must be treated with the utmost care. These companies also need a thorough understanding of how data flows through their organisations – data subjects will also need to be given clear information about how their data is being used and whether it is being transferred to third parties/countries.

For FemTech companies operating in the B2C space, it is important to ensure that user journeys – and the terms that users sign up to – comply with consumer protection legislation, particularly in relation to transparency and fairness. Users need to understand what they’re signing up to, what their obligations are and what to do if they no longer want to use the product/service.

Whilst the challenges highlighted above can make it difficult to enter the market and sustain a presence, the panel event highlighted the growth in this space. We expect to see many new entrants over the coming years and existing market players achieving new growth.



digital health, trends in digital health