HAS 2024

Gender Data Gap: How Technology is Transforming Women’s Wellness

Posted in Feature Articles

Today’s AI-driven, patient-centric tools empower women to generate, track, and benefit from their health data. As new data sources emerge, these tools are not only closing the gender data gap, which has persisted for decades, but they’re also empowering women to make informed decisions by putting them at the center of their health journeys. 

Historically, medical research often sidelined women’s data, especially during pregnancy. Much progress has been made to include women in federally funded research. However, pregnant women continue to be excluded from many pharmacological therapeutic trials for various ethical, scientific, and regulatory issues. The prevalence of a gender data gap has resulted in the adoption of male-centric data as the standard protocol for numerous treatments. To illustrate this, research reveals that doctors prescribe medications to over two-thirds of women during pregnancy yet rely on data from healthy male study volunteers and non-pregnant women for treatment and dosing strategies. 

Addressing the gender data gap is crucial for improving care outcomes across women’s health issues and life stages. To date, efforts to close the gender data gap in the U.S. have included the creation of new federal offices dedicated entirely to women’s health, such as the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health in 1994, and policy changes, such as the National Institutes for Health (NIH) 2016 mandate to include “sex as a biological variable” (SABV) in funded research designs.

These initiatives represent significant milestones, while concurrently, new technologies such as at-home diagnostics, wearables, and telehealth promote equity in healthcare and empower women to make more informed decisions during crucial life stages like pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.

The following case studies highlight how technological solutions can facilitate women’s active engagement in health data collection and utilization while ensuring a health system achieves positive and measurable clinical outcomes.

Case Study #1: Enhancing Early Detection and Treatment of Postpartum Hypertension

A medical team at ChristianaCare found that many new mothers missed crucial follow-up visits, making postpartum hypertension detection challenging. Clinical leaders also noted that Black women were readmitted twice as often as Caucasian women. When they delved deeper, they discovered that reasons for missing appointments included logistical challenges, physical discomfort, and a belief that no significant benefit was derived from these visits.

To address this, ChristianaCare employed Twistle by Health Catalyst. Twistle integrates at-home diagnostics and telehealth into an interactive, HIPAA-compliant platform providing bi-directional, text-based remote patient monitoring. The platform sends automated text-based reminders and educational content to new mothers’ smartphones, reminding them to take and submit at-home blood pressure readings. If a mother records concerning data, healthcare providers receive immediate alerts and can communicate directly with the mother through the platform without waiting for an appointment. 

The initiative successfully reduced post-partum hypertension-related readmissions and eliminated a long-standing racial disparity. Compared to 30 percent of new mothers traditionally attending postpartum check-ups, the remote monitoring platform achieved a 91 percent engagement rate, with new mothers submitting at least one blood pressure reading. The remote monitoring program also reduced readmissions by 55 percent.

Among Black women, the readmission rate dropped from 61 percent to 31 percent, a 49 percent decrease. This initiative’s success highlights the importance of more comprehensive data and the role technology can play in driving equitable outcomes. By eliminating traditional barriers and making health monitoring more accessible and intuitive, ChristianaCare set a precedent for how tech-driven solutions can revolutionize women’s health while ensuring no one is left behind.

Case Study #2: Tackling Postpartum Type 2 Diabetes with Tech-driven Patient Engagement 

The team at ChristianaCare also noted gaps in postpartum diabetes screenings, especially for mothers with gestational diabetes. Aware of the compounded challenges of new motherhood and socio-economic barriers, they again turned to Twistle for at-home patient engagement. Patients used glucometers and lancets that they were also using during pregnancy. Twistle delivered time-based education and reminders and captured in-home fasting blood sugar (FBS) data using easy-to-complete forms. Patients received automatic text replies; if warranted, the solution automatically escalated alarming data inputs to clinical staff for additional intervention.

The program increased overall Type 2 diabetes screening by 92 percent. Type 2 diabetes detection rates also rose by 213 percent. What’s more, the initiative helped address racial disparities in health outcomes, with previously under-screened Black women experiencing a 211 percent boost in screenings, which resulted in a 577 percent surge in the detection of Type 2 diabetes among this demographic.

Looking Ahead: Women’s Health Data and Clinical Quality

These success stories indicate how today’s AI-powered tech solutions can catalyze profound shifts in women’s health data collection, analysis, and clinical decision-making. Indeed, women must no longer rely solely on the traditional research methods that historically overlooked their specific needs throughout their life cycles.

Today, technology enables women to contribute data and track and engage with their health metrics more meaningfully, leading to positive outcomes. As health systems build a more comprehensive view of women’s medical issues, they can leverage data platforms and patient engagement solutions to help close the gender data gap and grant women the autonomy to shape their healthcare journeys proactively.

Health Catalyst’s Dr. Melissa Welch Earns 2023 WOC STEM Career Achievement Award

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