Reimagining women's health care
If you had to guess, which is more common in women—diabetes or endometriosis? It’s a trick question. They actually affect women equally. However, endometriosis receives $1 of research funding for every $200 invested in diabetes.
While there may be various explanations for this discrepancy, there’s a long pattern of health care providers, venture capitalists, and science overlooking women’s health needs. Instead, the world has adopted a male-first approach. Neglecting women has resulted in poorer health outcomes and left an untapped potential for personalized medicine.
The rise of Femtech solutions
Amidst increased awareness of gender inequalities, women’s health is taking center stage in many industries, including tech. Despite the limited venture capital funding allocated to female-focused technology, Femtech is on the rise. From 2014 to 2018, funding for Femtech companies increased by 812%. Technology is essential in the digital age. And women, comprising half of the population, constitute a large potential customer base. These technologies offer an alternative to the male-centered world. They have the potential to create tailored solutions to women’s health, understand the science of women’s bodies, and collect rich data.
You and your tech-happy lady friends are not the only ones celebrating these advances. Health insurance companies are also beginning to embrace these digital solutions, as they realize how they can potentially save health care dollars. Digital solutions for women can reduce sick time, preterm births, and complications during birth. As payers in many countries are shifting from a fee-for-service model to a value-based-care model, there’s increased pressure on doctors to provide cost-effective treatments. Many are reconsidering treatments that have worse side effects than the alternative. For the first time, women’s health and comfort are prioritized.
Coupling technology and chronic disease care
As technology shifts, so does the management of many other health problems in women, including chronic diseases. The growth of digital health solutions means that women no longer have to manage their chronic disease in isolation. Instead, they can link their care to continuous monitoring and receive personalized attention and tailored medicine. These solutions enable women to have support on a real-time basis. Shareable data points facilitate patient-provider communication and help providers detect trends and patterns. This approach to chronic disease management can capture early symptoms and boost preventive care as well as shift the often paternalistic doctor-patient relationship to one that is based on mutual participation.
The vagina’s superpowers
Various soft, flexible vaginal rings have been on the market for a number of years to treat perimenopausal symptoms and other chronic diseases. They offer solutions to people who have difficulty swallowing pills or face uncomfortable side effects. While the vagina may look soft and smooth, it actually has some superpowers that make it well-suited for drug delivery.
Why is the vagina often ideal for drug delivery?
- It’s highly vascularized. Meaning it will be easier for medications to reach the bloodstream than a less-vascularized region (like the gastro-intestinal tract!).
- It’s nature’s pocket. It’s out of sight. A ring can go in and stay in for weeks, allowing patients to easily and discreetly take their medicine.
- It reduces those uncomfortable side effects associated with swallowing medication.
Chronic disease care reimagined: The LiGalli difference
Unlike traditional vaginal rings for chronic diseases—commonly referred to as first-generation vaginal rings—LiGalli’s MedRing is the only second-generation vaginal ring. In addition to the benefits of other vaginal rings, our MedRing functions as a digital platform. It is equipped with smart technology and connects to a platform that communicates with the ring. Doctors and patients can also connect to this platform by visiting a webpage and downloading a smartphone app. Women can see a history of when their medication was delivered. Their doctors can establish safety parameters around the recommended amount and frequency of the dose. Given these parameters, women can adjust when and how much of the medication they receive based on their schedule and preferences. In a single ring, the MedRing as a Platform enables intelligent drug delivery, intelligent diagnostics, simultaneous drug delivery and diagnostics, and data support.
On the horizon: Treatment for overactive bladder (OAB)
LiGalli is first exploring the use of the MedRing to treat OAB. A perusal of stories of women with OAB demonstrates that the patient experience is anything but empowering. As one patient Connie put it, “My life is controlled by overactive bladder.” People with OAB get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, making it difficult to get a full night of sleep. They have to carry extra underwear and incontinence pads with them. They limit travel and plan all their activities around the availability of public bathrooms. This had led to too many women with OAB to joke about being able to review all the public bathrooms in a certain geographical area.
As these problems worsen, people continually adjust their lifestyle. As another woman Terry once recounted, she gradually made accommodations for her OAB. Even her family began to notice how she was always “requesting a closer table to the restroom at dinners, always making sure [she] emptied [her] bladder before [she] went out, booking the aisle seat in a plane for easier bathroom access, and…always running off during any event to go [to the restroom].
LiGalli is making strides in this field, seeking to improve the quality of life of people with OAB and other chronic diseases. We are helping people take control of their health and experience a new kind of freedom when living with their chronic disease. We are demanding space and attention in an area that should have always been a focus. We are reimagining women’s health.