Digital founders Saba Alzabin and Eirini Rapti speak to MobiHealthNews about how women’s health technology has evolved beyond fertility tracking apps.

Femtech innovators shine the spotlight on women’s health

By Tammy Lovell
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Since period tracking app Clue was launched in 2013, the femtech industry has continued to flourish and is projected to reach a market potential of $50bn by 2025.

“It’s been absolutely amazing in shedding light on a range of products created by women and addressing female needs previously not known to the investment community,” says Eirini Rapti, founder and CEO of inne, a natural contraceptive method powered by technology.

But female health technology is evolving beyond simple tracking apps, as innovators explore solutions which take into account other aspects of health data.

“Technology can provide data insights into women’s bodies with reliable trackers and diagnostics, connect them to experts easily and very importantly make use of data specific to women to adjust medication doses and pharmaceutical solutions,” Rapti tells MobiHealthNews ahead of the HIMSS - owner of MobiHealthNews - Health 2.0 European conference taking place in Helsinki this June.

It was her interest natural contraception which inspired Rapti to come up with the concept for hormone detection and monitoring system, inne.

Traditionally, women have relied on charting basal body temperature to predict fertility, but Rapti says the strict criteria required can make this difficult.

This led her to look deeper into biotech solutions to track hormones directly and eventually develop inne, which uses a saliva test with a small reader to interpret the data. The results are then presented through an app.

“Natural contraception is such a great alternative to hormonal methods, because it allows women to share the burden of contraception with their partners and openly talk about it with no taboos,” says Rapti.

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Women’s digital healthcare platform Nabta Health also integrates its applications with other digital solutions including smart tests, medical devices, virtual care, machine learning and AI. 

Co-founder and chief scientific officer Saba Alzabin says the hybrid system is the first of its kind in the Middle East and aims to provide a “personalised healthcare journey” which takes into consideration factors such as the user's nutrition, exercise, sleep, hormone levels, blood glucose levels and medical test results.

Alzabin founded Nabta in 2017 after being shocked to discover the lack of research into the female body while embarking on her PhD in molecular oncology and immunology at New York University.

This health discrepancy, she says, is particularly prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“On this topic, the Middle East is way behind when it comes to being leaders in scientific advances and research, mostly due to bureaucracy and a lack of a supportive infrastructure and resources,” says Alzabin, who hails from Kuwait, but is now based in the UK.

Additionally, she says that women in the MENA are often held responsible for fertility issues, despite research suggesting growing infertility rates in men. 

“There are also cultural stresses that prevent women in the region from addressing their health properly, such a lack of support or awareness on sexual health, and the importance of cervical and breast screening,” she explains.

Nabta is available in Arabic and includes access to more than 2,000 educational articles and tips on women's health. It is also culturally sensitive and features the Hijri calendar, which is followed by Muslim countries. 

“At Nabta, we allow a woman to address manage her health at the comfort and privacy of her home, providing added value in a culture where some medical issues are not comfortably addressed or supported in a clinical setting,” Alzabin says.

Alzabin and Rapta will be demonstrating their products during a spotlight on women’s health session at the HIMSS Health 2.0 event in Helsinki on 13 June. MobiHealthNews is a HIMSS Media publication.