Digital tech trends shaping women’s health – Med-Tech Innovation

by Tim Simpson
8 March 2023
For International Women’s Day, Tim Simpson, general manager, Hologic UK & Ireland, looks at key digital health innovations in women’s health.
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International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is a great reminder to pause, reflect and focus on the development in women’s health, technologies, and future improvements. This year, for International Women’s Day, the UN highlight ‘DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality, which is essential for continuous progression of women’s health.
Women’s health has often been overlooked – even though it involves 50% of the population. However, now more than ever, we have begun to understand the difference in health needs and outcomes between men and women. Scientific breakthroughs, new technologies and policies are providing unique opportunities to improve women’s health and avert significant tolls in terms of burden, societal and economic costs.
In our digital world, data is everything as it drives innovation, growth, and improvement. Women’s health challenges are vast and complex, but there are ways in making women’s healthcare better, faster, and more efficient with the support of evolving technologies – specifically data collecting technologies as we cannot adjust and improve if we do not measure.
As someone working in women’s health, it is interesting to observe the continuous developments in technology. Some of these overarching trends have existed for some time and I predict they will become more important in the years to come.
AI is here to stay
We are all familiar with the term AI. However, over the last decade we have become more aware of the benefits it has in making women’s health better and more efficient while reducing healthcare costs by decreasing medical errors and providing more dependable predictions. There are several ways in which AI is helping women including early diagnosis of cancer by detecting abnormalities invisible to the naked eye or improving pregnancy outcomes by helping identify disorders such as gestational diabetes or congenital birth defects.
It is important that AI in the medical world is used to its full potential to meet the needs of women’s health. One of the greatest areas where AI has evolved is across screening programmes. In breast cancer imaging, AI is often applied as a decision support tool when reading mammograms and characterising suspicious tissue. However, AI can also help clinicians predict who may be likely to develop cancer by offering more intensive screening regimens and other preventative techniques looking into breast health. Additionally, AI is also used to create digital images of cervical smear slides from samples that have tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the virus that accounts for more than 95% of cervical cancers.
The UK Government’s recent announcement of £16 million investment into AI companies to accelerate better and faster diagnosis and treatment of numerous conditions such as breast, colon, and prostate cancers as well as neurological conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s, is a good indication of where the industry is headed.
Due to the backlogs and NHS pressures, it is vital these screening programmes work efficiently. This is possible as AI technologies continue to be a dominant force and more data is captured to detect, diagnose, and improve women’s health outcomes.
Technology to address demand for personalised healthcare
Personalised health is not a new concept. With more data, access to information and patient choice, the world has become more interested and educated about health conditions and treatment options. Shared decision making, enabling patient choice, and supporting self-management are all important dimensions of personalised care in women’s health, where there are a plethora of online tools, apps and trackers that help to empower women and give them control over their health.
The next frontier of personalised care is in risk stratification, where AI technology is progressing the field. Research, analysis, and treatments need to be specifically tailored to individuals or a small group of patients based on factors such as age, genetics or risk factors rather than on a one-size-fits-all approach.
Recently we have seen investment in AI technology to determine a woman’s risk of pre-eclampsia. Using AI to identify women at risk then allows women, their families and healthcare professionals to make the best decision for the patient’s pregnancy care. In breast screening, AI has enabled prioritised, risk assessed breast screening systems, creating molecular profiles to determine relative risk, and better identifying high risk patients.
Deploying AI technology to achieve more tailored and targeted approaches to treating women Personalised healthcare is no longer a choice, it’s a prerequisite to meet the needs of the pressured healthcare system for better health outcomes – and judging by the NHS long term vision, personalised care is set to become ‘business as usual’ by 2024.
Digital technology is finding new ways to understand, monitor and improve women’s health
Women are taking an increasingly proactive approach to living healthier lives. Accessible digital technologies, such as apps and online trackers, are on a rapid upwards trajectory and is fuelling the booming femtech industry. 
Women are benefiting from femtech apps in numerous ways including improving delivery of care in a more relatable and convenient way, e.g virtual clinics or direct-to-customer prescription delivery services. With 57% of women globally owning a form of wearable technology such as fitness tracker and smartwatches and more than 100 million women who use free menstruation-tracking app such as Flo, Glow, Ovia and Clue, there is a huge drive for self-care and helping women take ownership of their health outcomes. Furthermore, the capture of this level of data is outstanding. Put to good use, this data holds great potential to usher new waves of innovative women’s healthcare that breaks cultural, behavioural, and structural barriers that exist in women’s health.
In summary, the rise in digital technology including AI and the femtech industry provides more digital tools that can then improve systems and help achieve gender equality through access to technology. I look forward to seeing how these overarching trends soar and shape women’s health in the future.
8 March 2023
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