Hillel's Tech Corner: Hela Health: The ultimate femtech resource

It is a platform built for and designed by women to curate the best technology, services, products, apps and wearables available today for women of all ages and life stages in one place.

Hela Health (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hela Health
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Who isn’t familiar with the phenomenon of checking and researching symptoms or medical information on Google? That never ends well.
Where do you go for health and wellness information? If you’re like most people, you will spend a ridiculous amount of time on the Internet, sifting through many tabs which contain the likes of WebMD, blogs, forums, and more.
It makes sense. Taking care into our own hands is becoming pretty standard. Consumers are turning to tele-health platforms, retail clinics, and other urgent care centers that focus on acute needs, and spending less time with traditional healthcare providers. Today’s consumers are also taking health and wellness into their own hands, by searching for and adopting products and services that can be used at home, often without clinical oversight.
There are many reasons why, which include not having the time to visit a physician, not having insurance coverage, and concerns surrounding babysitting, transportation to and from the doctor’s office, etc. It’s this reality that has, in part, allowed femtech to thrive in the past year as women look for convenient solutions that can dramatically improve their lives.
Femtech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products and services that use technology to address women’s health. This sector includes fertility solutions, period-tracking apps, pregnancy and nursing care, women’s sexual wellness, and reproductive system healthcare. It is also expanding to solutions that address how chronic diseases uniquely impact and manifest in women.
What’s exciting about femtech is that it is addressing many of the challenges facing women today that have gone long un- or under-reported. It is putting healthcare decisions and tools directly into the hands of women to address many of these issues that are normal parts of a woman’s life cycle.
At the end of 2019, approximately $1 billion was invested in technologies that aim to improve women’s lives, with a projected market size of $50b. by 2025. The innovations coming out of Israel alone are amazing, including the Mylee, MobileODT EVA System, Invu by Nuvo, Livia and many more.
The challenge with the slew of femtech innovations hitting the market so rapidly is that women need to find them, use the right search terms, trust that these innovations are based on standard care and clinical evidence, and also have the broader health knowledge on how to best use them.
That’s a whole lot of tabs open to find basic information. When deciding what a good fit is, some women do a lot of research and go to their healthcare provider for confirmation. However, more than 90% of healthcare providers say they are not familiar or don’t have the bandwidth to review and recommend products and services.
Another huge barrier for many of these technologies is cost, as most of femtech isn’t covered by traditional insurance.
Enter Hela Health, an Israeli start-up launched in 2019. It is a platform built for and designed by women to curate the best technology, services, products, apps and wearables available today for women of all ages and life stages in one place.
Hela Health was founded by Gal Brenner and Cathy Sebag, two product managers who have designed and launched products together related to cervical cancer space. The initial idea was born of a passion for women’s health innovation, and the fear that these technologies didn’t have the right environment for scaled adoption and integration into everyday life among women of all socioeconomic levels. Upon extensive user research, they found that 95% of the women they spoke with didn’t know about the femtech innovations that were available.
The Hela Platform features more than 100 leading femtech solutions, and also offers supportive services needed to integrate these technologies into everyday life, including live and recorded classes and peer-support groups. For instance, when an innovative breast pump is featured, users can also find live and recorded classes on breastfeeding and improving milk supply.
INFORMATIONAL COMPONENTS exist across all the areas of the Hela platform: birth control, menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, post-birth care, midlife health, sexual health and wellness.
Everything found on Hela goes through a rigorous review process. Key criteria include taking an innovative approach in technology, and pledging ethical data policies that don’t sell personal data of women. Everything is reviewed and approved by Hela’s medical board from the Harvard School of Medicine, Beth Israel and Genesis Fertility. And everything in the Hela shop is based on a well-known or established biomarker, standard of care or known evidence-based approach.
Leading femtech brands are joining the platform, including the likes of Elvie, Pearl, Mira, Embr, Joylux, TwentyEight Health and many more.
Early detection and monitoring tools can be lifesaving. Femtech tools can help change the following realities for women:
● Reported maternal deaths in the US increased from 17 per 100,000 pregnant women in 1990 to more than 26 deaths per 100,000 pregnant women in 2015.
● One in three women experience pelvic floor dysfunction in their life, but most are unreported and under-diagnosed.
● 75% of women with severe menstrual pain never seek medical attention.
● Up to 32% of women experience chronic pelvic pain.
● 20% of American women in the workforce experience menopause each year but only one in five women who need to see a menopause specialist ever do.
The Hela platform focuses on being a virtual space that is relatable for women, so women can hop between life stages and topics. The idea of looking through so many sites and individual places for very different issues can be exhausting. That’s not uncommon for many women.
What’s interesting is that the platform isn’t a traditional consumer facing tool; it’s structured as a benefit for employers and insurance companies to offer to their teams and members.
Some 84% of US companies are looking to invest in women’s health and wellness in the next three years, in an effort to create a positive work culture where women feel more supported by their employers over their health and wellness goals, needs and decisions.
Companies are beginning to recognize that improved outcomes and support for women, including in reproductive health, leads to improvements in female recruitment, retention and ability to meet diversity and inclusion goals. This has a clear impact on a company’s bottom line by being more gender inclusive and diverse, and also improves preparedness for increasing scrutiny from stakeholders on helping women thrive in the workplace.
Through Hela’s digital health wallet feature, employers can offer subsidies and a set amount for women and partners of their team to apply to anything on the femtech shop and the associated services on the site. It allows employers to offer a single benefit without negotiating tons of individual contracts.
For women offered the benefit, it’s pretty exciting that there are little to no out-of-pocket costs to access these products and services, which are curated into a single place to limit the amount of time and effort to evaluate them.
The Hela platform is being piloted with two leading companies in San Francisco and New York with initial utilization rates over 70%. New services to support these innovations are being developed, including the ability to ask questions directly to experts on the platform and live video peer support groups divided by topic.
So far, Hela is completely bootstrapped and run by the cofounders and Hela’s team of experts. As Hela starts to take the technology to the next level and continue to expand services offered for women, it plans to raise a seed round to continue to drive value for women.
We can be hopeful that 2020 will be the year in which individuals and companies alike will consider and invest in women’s health and wellness, to empower women, no matter their age or circumstance.