Is healthcare in India inherently gender-biased against women? Yes indeed.
But there are winds of positive change. As healthcare becomes tech-savvy, India has a unique opportunity of reversing this gender bias and creating technology solutions that address specific women’s health issues – those that have been neglected for decades now.
We believe that three key innovation trends will shape the future of the women’s health focused solutions in India.
(1) More women are coming online and seeking healthcare
Riding on the strong wave of internet adoption and consumerisation, India is home to ~260 million female internet users (~43 per cent of overall users). More than 150 million women are also making purchases online and this number is doubling every year.
Internet’s virtual safe space is providing women with a personal platform to express their concerns and raise queries regarding personal care. Leveraging this welcome behaviour change, more than 70 start-ups are working on enabling access to primary care and specialised women’s health conditions which were hitherto ignored due to lack of awareness, societal taboo, or affordable access. These companies are primarily targeting online buyers for providing medical and wellness products, services, or a combination of these two tailored for specific women’s health conditions.
(2) Specific subset of women’s health start-ups has seen early adoption
We are seeing companies that address a wide range of areas like menstruation, skin and hair care, PCOS, mental health, sexual identity and health, reproductive issues, fertility, pregnancy and maternal care.
Management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – a chronic hormonal condition which affects one in five Indian women – is a space ripe for disruption as very few women seek regular, timely care for managing their condition today.
PCOS management needs a holistic, multidisciplinary care plan that combines medical and lifestyle management including diet planning, physical activities and stress management. Digital-first companies are educating young women, simplifying the healthcare access journey and providing health coaching to manage their condition better.
While early excitement is palpable, start-ups will have to design best-in-class user experience to establish trust in these new solutions that will potentially work with the existing care paradigm. Eventually their success will depend on their ability to demonstrate measurable clinical outcomes.
(3) Content and Community-led approach is helping build awareness and trust
Most women’s health issues have been underdiagnosed or poorly managed due to societal neglect, insensitivity, or taboo. Digital health providers are now starting to leverage the strength of curated content and communities for discussing critical health and wellness issues.
The voice of an influencer or medical expert lends credibility, and the support of peer group brings trust both collectively help women take their first step towards better care.
Start-ups will continue to leverage content and community to reach wider audiences in a bid to optimise their customer acquisition costs and to improve women’s health outcomes at scale.
Conclusion-The time is now
We started off by asking if there is a gender-bias in healthcare. The more evolved question today is “How can we best leverage technology to eliminate the gender-bias in this limited time window?”
It is important that we all-investors, healthcare service providers, caregivers, start-ups, policy makers and communities move beyond token conversations and truly make the best out of this golden decade of digital disruption to level the playing field and lay foundations of health infrastructure that solves for all facets women’s health. The time is now!
Authors: Dr Pankaj Jethwani, Tushar Sadhu