Health systems race to tap women's health market

Major health systems are setting their sights on the women's health market and opening specialized centers just for female patients, NC Health News reported Nov. 14. 

Two of those healthcare giants — Novant Health and Atrium Health, both based in Charlotte, N.C. — will soon boast women's health centers just a mile apart from one another. Novant's 36,000-square-foot women's center, which opened in 2020, provides neurology, psychiatry, pulmonary and cardiology clinics in a "spa-like" setting with "feminine" decor, according to the news site. Atrium's women's services will occupy a former urgent care center. 

Meanwhile, Duke Health in Durham, N.C., provides specialty women's cancer and heart care, and is developing a female-specific sports medicine program. UNC Health, based in Chapel Hill, has a women's heart program plus a women's heart and health stand-alone clinic. 

The growing prevalence of such programs proves the market's viability, William Brandon, PhD, a professor emeritus of health policy at UNC Charlotte, told the news site. 

Women have historically been underdiagnosed and undertreated, since there were no requirements to include them in research until 1993, according to the news site. However, there are differences in how men and women experience the same symptoms — for example, women report migraines more often while men are more prone to cluster headaches —  and how they respond to certain treatments. This indicates the need for a more specialized care approach. 

"There was this idea that women are just small men, so if you extrapolate your results out, then whatever treatment or disease you're studying, you can apply to the whole population," Katie Schubert, president and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research, told the news site. "Now we know that not to be true."

There is also an incentive to prioritize women's health because women make 80 to 90 percent of their family's healthcare decisions, according to the news site. They also spend more on healthcare across their lifetimes because of longer lifespans and the ability to carry babies.

In addition, "one stop shops" appeal to women, Stephanie Appling, women and children's service line leader for Novant Health, told the news site. 

"We want women to be with us from start to finish," Ms. Appling said. "Women have so much they're already managing and taking care of, so we wanted to make it easier."

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