Why Record Funding in Women’s Health Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee the Success We Seek

Why Record Funding in Women’s Health Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee the Success We Seek

Value-Based Care, Digital Health, Maternity, Health Innovation, Mission

By Leah Sparks - Founder and CEO - 

After passing the $10 billion mark for the first time in 2020, digital health funding experienced a relentless surge in 2021, doubling to more than $20 billion before the year was even over. Increases in digital solutions for women’s health followed the overall trend, as investments in this space also doubled year-over-year. There’s no sign of a slowdown as we march into 2022. In fact, Wildflower joined the parade of funding announcements with one of our own recently.

I love seeing such widespread enthusiasm and belief in companies seeking to improve women’s health, given how under-served women have been by the healthcare system. However, I also have some reservations. Here’s why. We need to ensure the innovation in women’s health can be sustained with payment models that support them long term. Secondly, we need to be cautious not to create more silos of care for women by helping to integrate innovation with the incumbent OBGYN providers who are delivering the vast majority of care. 

A few thoughts on both of these challenges and how companies innovating in women’s health can collaborate to overcome them. 

Lack of Payment Mechanism

We’ve written before about the fact that digital health solutions can’t add more cost to the system, and they can’t create more silos. Yet, with every passing day, we are seeing more examples of both. One of our clients summed it up very well, saying that solutions that add cost to the system simply won’t work and are of no interest to their health plan, because “people already pay too much for healthcare.” 

Digital solutions in women’s health must be financed through value creation and value share. They cannot be additive to our already astronomical costs. And they can’t simply shift cost from one budget line item to another. They have to generate real, measurable savings by improving the quality of care, and be founded on a business model that allows for their compensation to be addressed by the accomplishment of such improvements. 

Disconnected from Incumbent Providers

Digital should encourage a personalized, curated, holistic experience in a way that helps consumers connect to care, not further splinter the system. Women are already struggling to connect information between their OB/GYN, PCP and any specialists they see. Standalone clinical services that operate independently of the existing care ecosystem will only exacerbate this challenge for women and the incumbent providers.

While it is tempting for a startup to disregard how the status quo due to the complexity and sluggishness associated with the current system of care, they must look for ways to integrate within this existing infrastructure. That’s the only way care innovation will scale, We have to heal our system from within. Solutions that add more noise and confusion or create further distance between patients and their care teams just make everything even worse. Not to mention how important it is to be supportive of provider workflows, instead of complicating them.

In the end, any solution that is not seamlessly integrated into clinical workflows will not be adopted and supported by clinicians. Any solution not adopted and supported by clinicians will not be consistently used by patients. And lack of scale and adoption by these stakeholders will not meaningfully address the trajectory of poor outcomes and high costs we see in women’s health. 

A Way Forward?

Despite the increases in investment, women’s health companies still only garner a small percentage of overall funding, and we need to ensure the newfound investor enthusiasm for women’s health is sustained by enabling scale and success of emerging innovations.To achieve that, it is important to keep the ultimate goal in mind. Improving care for women. Solutions that are value-based and deeply integrated with providers will lead us forward, and as a healthcare ecosystem, we all become more aligned with the patient at the center.  

At Wildflower, we have always been focused on collapsing silos in healthcare. Initially, that meant bringing payers and providers together on behalf of the patient. As the industry has evolved, we have determined it is just as important to ensure we are collaborating effectively with other third-party solutions that are designed to support both payer and provider organizations in delivering better care. To that end, we have built our platform to be inclusive and to partner seamlessly with other solutions providers. 

To transform patient care, we have to make sure tools and services make healthcare easy for women to navigate their care, integrate seamlessly into provider workflows for insight and support at the point of care, and operate with a thoughtful economic design that aligns and rewards based on value creation. One of our core values at Wildflower is “Win as a Team” meaning that we always prioritize the collective good over the goals of the individual. That’s how we view our contributions to women’s health as well. Our success as a company is not measured only in our own growth and outcomes. Our true impact is helping harness the power of the emerging ecosystem of women’s health solutions by being a good partner and a convener and facilitator for mission-aligned services that play a role in this new era of women’s health.