The Spirit of Theranos lives on in Femtech

While going through bookmarks for my newsletter, an article from the Atlantic caught my eye. It’s right at the intersection of tech startups, femtech, internet culture, and health – my alley ((cracks knuckles))

Why are so many women being told they have a hormone imbalance?

I’ll TL;DR: it for you

Hormone imbalances are the new scapegoat for all the ills on social media. Founders see this proof of demand and start businesses to remotely test women’s hormones and diagnose hormonal abnormalities. Citing “cutting edge scientific testing methods” and algorithmic magic to get funding from investors and online clients alike.

But doctors are highly sceptical of the value and reliability of these services.

For one, the testing methods aren’t accurate for some hormones in women. In a service exclusively marketed to women, that’s a problem.

Secondly, testing turnaround time doesn’t match real-life post-delivery time.

And the Theranos comparison?

It’s because they are trying to get a lot of tests done based on finger prick samples. In a hospital setting, you would need maybe two blood drawers for accurate results.

And all this is even before we even consider if you CAN say what’s normal and not in hormone levels when you consider the variability of hormonal levels over populations and ethnicities, and the problems of “averaging” hormone levels.

Doctors are concerned that women will begin treatments for conditions they don’t have based on unreliable and unnecessary testing.

In short, the services do more harm than good.

One Dr is quoted as saying the results would be either “falsely reassuring or falsely distressing.”

This isn’t the first femtech startup with controversy around efficacy, privacy or safety issues:

All of which prompts some people to ask.. 

Is it time for a Hippocratic oath for health apps?

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