I was recently part of a podcast that our friends at Rock Health produced titled Gaps and opportunities in women’s health and entrepreneurship. The conversation with Rock Health and fellow female entrepreneur Julia Cheek at EverlyWell brought back memories of how hard it was for Wildflower Health in the early days to convince investors that women’s health is more than a “niche.” Today, that mindset has really changed, and I hope that Wildflower Health has helped fuel that change by demonstrating all the reasons why this is far from a niche market, and, in fact, why women are actually the most powerful decision makers in healthcare. Here are some of the dynamics we think about:
Women are more than half of the healthcare equation
The fact that women make up roughly half the population is an obvious counter-argument to the “niche” label. But in healthcare, women are actually driving more than half the dollars. Looking at healthcare spend, over the course of a lifetime, women cost the system 32% more than men, primarily because of the costs for childbearing and women’s longer life expectancy.
Women are usually the healthcare decision-makers
Yet medical spend alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Much of the cost and quality in healthcare comes down to decisions – which doctor or hospital you choose, whether you choose a generic drug over a brand, which type of health plan you select. And when it comes to healthcare decisions, the data shows that women make 80% of the healthcare decisions. Assuming decisions are 1:1 with healthcare dollars, that means women influence more than $2 trillion of healthcare spend.
Changing the conversation
Women are in this role of influence in the healthcare system because they are often the stewards for the whole family’s health – their kids, their spouse, their aging parents. Ironically, at Wildflower Health, we don’t see ourselves as a “women’s health” company. We are a multi-condition health engagement company that acknowledges the role women often play as shepherd of the family health decisions, which means we have continued to design our products with women as a core stakeholder even as we have expanded beyond maternity. Ultimately, our goal is to empower the family healthcare decision maker – whether woman or man – to get the information and resources needed to keep the family’s health on track and to connect to care when an issue comes up. We believe this is a powerful context for influencing a broad range of healthcare choices impacting the 250M Americans who are living in some type of family household.
Bottom line, women do not represent a niche in healthcare. If anything, women are one of the most powerful healthcare constituents and a group that must be engaged in a thoughtful way if we are going to reshape our healthcare system to deliver consumer-centered solutions that improve access to care and clinical quality.