Digital healthcare & technology for sexual health
Across the US and Europe, the 1960s are remembered as a watershed moment for societies’ relationship with sex. Evolving moralities, feminist theory, and new methods of contraception all contributed to the dawn of more liberal, healthier engagement with sexual pleasure and procreation.
“Six decades on, we once again find ourselves in the midst of a sexual revolution,” says Adam Hunter, CCO at Phlo Connect. “Stigmas are being challenged, new ways of engaging with the erotic are emerging, and people of all genders are being empowered to take control of their sexual health and wellbeing.
“However, to understand the unique nature of today’s revolution, it is necessary to explore how it intersects with, and is mutually shaped by, the shift to digital-first healthcare provision. Today, the pursuit of health and wellbeing is increasingly taking place in digitally-mediated spaces. These are pivotal to the transformation, and they are redefining both what sexual health means and who can access it.”
Sextech takes centre stage
A sector that innovators and investors once shunned, sextech has now been pushed into the spotlight as we learn more about the interconnectedness of sexual, physical and mental wellbeing.
“Sextech is a category including ‘technology and technology-driven ventures that are designed to enhance, innovate, or otherwise change human sexuality and/or the human sexual experience’. It is a definition that gives the category huge scope and includes everything from AI-powered sex toys to cutting edge contraceptive technologies.
“What unites the sector is a shared mission to redraw the boundaries between sexuality, pleasure and health, with a focus on providing positive and empowering experiences to users - including those from marginalised communities.”
How VIMPROs are championing accessible sexual healthcare
One dominant trend within the sextech space is the emergence of vertically integrated micro providers (VIMPROs), digital platforms offering users an end-to-end service tailored to previously unmet needs.
“Typically, VIMPROs act as ‘one-stop-shops’ for users, who log on to access remote specialist consultations, prescriptions and direct-to-door medication delivery,” explains Hunter. “The models are perfectly suited to the delivery of sexual healthcare, as the on-demand and discrete nature of the service allows patients to sidestep barriers of shame or stigma that might previously have prevented them from accessing treatment and support.
“VIMPROs are also well placed to fill gaps in existing sexual health provision, which is seriously lacking on a national level. This includes:
- Providing on-demand access to affordable contraceptive and sexual health products designed for the female body, as pioneered by Hanx and HelloEve
- LVNDR’s provision of judgement-free HIV testing, access to LGBTQ+ informed clinicians and free PrEP to all genders
- Virtual consultations and discrete direct-to-door treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE) from Hims, and digital therapy programmes and educational resources designed to end the shame attached to these common conditions, as offered by Mojo.”
Sex education for better health
The democratisation of knowledge is another key aspect of the contemporary sexual revolution. Understanding is essential to dismantling prejudice, but when it comes to sex, knowledge gaps can be hard to bridge.
“Searching the vast plains of the internet for sex education content can feel overwhelming, and uninformed Googlers are met with a barrage of misinformation and questionable advice,” Hunter continues. “However, many sexual health VIMPROs have now stepped in to fill their users' knowledge gaps, curating libraries of relevant, professionally-created education content for their specific audience.
“Pioneering startups include The Lowdown, a contraception review, advice and prescriptions platform, and Numan, whose ‘Numankind’ platform provides a rich source of expert-approved information and advice covering key male sexual health topics. By combining accurate information with sources of treatment and support, these platforms empower their users whilst advocating for a more holistic and preventative approach to sexual wellbeing.”
Building the future of sexual health
According to Hunter, the emergence of digital spaces where sexual health and wellbeing are championed is having a transformative impact on public health outcomes.
“There remains much progress to be made - the sextech space is chronically underfunded and undervalued by investors,” said Hunter. “But as long as taboos continue to be broken down, knowledge democratised, and the quality of patient experience prioritised, the revolution will continue to reshape society and transform lives for the better.”