Blog Post

Crisis in women's health care: 3 ways you can address the growing problem

By Alexander Polyak

April 20, 2022

    In the last few months, there's been a flood of academic studies about the impact of patient backlogs and delayed care. But, as we collect data from around the globe and across service lines, one theme is increasingly coming to the fore: holistic women's health is the big loser.

    Women's health is more than just 'maternal health.' It's time we treated it as such.

    Partly because so few organizations have a structured service line for women's health, it is easy to lose sight of the net impact of delayed health care delivery on women patients. And with birth rates showing an uptick in the past year, health care leaders can be forgiven for imagining a (welcome) return to traditional women's health operations and revenues, largely focused on reproductive health. But a quick survey of global trends related to holistic care for women tells a particularly chilling–yet clear–picture.

    And these are just a handful of stories; the list is long and the scale of this evolving women's health crisis is arguably as unprecedented as the overall post-pandemic backlogs we're seeing. Strangely, the good news is that, given that our backlogs are already being measured not just in months, but in years, this affords providers an opportunity to experiment/innovate with different models of how to deliver women's health care.

    Increase co-location of women's services

    One of the greatest impediments to making care accessible for women is how disruptive even the most basic visit can be. A routine physical, an annual gynecological screening, and annual diagnostic services like a mammogram or bone density scan make for multiple separate visits.

    Increasingly, outpatient clinics like the Ripa Center for Women's Health are co-locating services to enable back-to-back scheduling of these procedures. Their 'half-day for health' program affords patients a three hour block to combine all four appointments referenced above. By co-locating services or block scheduling them, each disaggregated wait time can be consolidated into a single patient pathway.

    Embrace new sites of care for women's health services

    As a society, we've long-fought the harmful cliché that a woman's place was in the home; yet, strangely, when it comes to women patients, we've designed and operate a health system where a woman's place is in the hospital—often the last place that they want (or need) to be.

    With women making the vast majority of health care decisions and spending 29% more per capita on health care than men, health providers can't afford to return to the pre-pandemic status quo of women's health delivery. And that means meeting women where they are most of the time: outside of the hospital.

    In fact, Sheba Medical Center has opened a Women's Health Innovation Center which is piloting a program to entirely shift uncomplicated prenatal care to the home. In doing so, they can potentially see many more patients using telehealth and remote patient monitoring while creating a more restful pregnancy for expectant mothers.

    Don't lose sight of the latest innovations in FemTech

    We are at the 'dawn of the FemTech revolution.' Perhaps more than in any other service line, women's health is being disrupted by life science companies and tech startups whose products offer a wider array of solutions for female-specific conditions than those seen within traditional health systems.

    Women are the pre-eminent health care consumer, and FemTech is following the customer (and the money) by holistically addressing stigmatized topics from menstrual health to menopause, while delivering culturally sensitive and tailored care. Health systems need to actively partner with FemTech to expand its reach and redirect it to address existing patient backlogs.

    Advisory Board International wants to hear from you. As we research future trends in the delivery of women's health care, we'd love to hear from organizations pursuing similar work who have begun to innovate in this space. If you'd like to share your story with us, please email polyakal@advisory.com

    Women's health is more than just 'maternal health.' It's time we treated it as such.

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    Last year, Advisory Board's Alexander Polyak and Miles Cottier conducted an analysis of global women's health trends.

    Here, they reflect on some of the things they learned and how they were challenged to face the uncomfortable truth about our health care system: it is a system largely built by men that fails women on a daily basis.

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