The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced the health tech industry to a situation it has never experienced. Through contact tracing, predictive analytics, and telemedicine, the industry has risen to its essential role. Richa Rai, AWIP Ambassador and Kaiser Permanente’s Portfolio Management Leader, states that “this might be the time when society steps forward and embraces telemedicine, government eases restrictions, and laws get expanded to include telemedicine benefits.” Kerry Jessani, J.P. Morgan’s Managing Director and National Head of Healthcare, Higher Education, and Nonprofits, sees the growing acceptance of telemedicine as a positive long-term trend that will “increase interconnectivity throughout the full continuum of healthcare.”
But despite the positive aspects that health tech plays in dealing with COVID-19, women’s general healthcare should remain in focus. Many responses to the COVID-19 outbreak have already shown that women are uniquely vulnerable during this pandemic, and that advancements in gender equality will be erased. During all health crises, women’s basic health services are generally strained. For example, during the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak, Doctors Without Borders reports, “thousands more lives were lost when safe delivery, neonatal, and family planning services became inaccessible due to the outbreak.”
One of the best ways we can remain focused on women’s health is by increasing the number of women, and in particular minority women, in healthcare leadership positions. Women “make 80 percent of buying and usage decisions” in healthcare, according to consulting firm Oliver Wyman, and yet they are only represented in “30 percent of C-suite teams and 13 percent of CEOs.” Chrissa McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Patientory, Inc., Amy Yu, Founder and CEO of Antlia Systems, and Colleen Cucliffe, CEO and co-founder of Pendulum Therapeutics, are three women leaders who use their STEM education to contribute to important developments in health tech. All three leaders emphasize the need for women to find mentors while advancing in their careers.
Chrissa McFarlane’s Patientory, Inc., which she founded in 2015, pioneers blockchain technology for healthcare. It allows patients and healthcare providers to access and transfer healthcare data. McFarlane stresses that health tech is vital because it “improves the quality of healthcare delivery, increases patient safety, decreases medical errors, and strengthens the interaction between patients and healthcare providers.” As a Black woman, she sees the potential of health tech in decreasing health disparities in the Black community. Health tech can address “underserved populations that oftentimes are overlooked because of the high costs of medical care in [the United States]. Tech innovations can help increase awareness and education in order to decrease many preventable diseases.”
Amy Yu’s Antlia Systems, which she founded in 2019, is a leader in the biosecurity industry. Biosecurity refers to protecting humans and animals against disease, and is an especially