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The Investments We’re Making—And Not Making—In Digital Health

January 5, 2017, 7:16 PM UTC

This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.

More digital health deals—296—were done last year than ever, though the average deal size ($13.8 million) was smaller than it was in either 2015 or 2014. Startups devoted to genomics and sequencing got the lion’s share of the investment ($410 million), followed by analytics and “big data” companies ($341 million). And of the 17 digital health concerns that have gone public since 2012, 10 are trading at above their IPO price and seven below.

All this and more I learned from Rock Health’s impressive 2016 Year End Funding Report: A reality check for digital health, compiled by Rock Health founder and industry veteran Halle Tecco (with help from colleagues). Data grazers will find plenty to chew on here. And whether you come away feeling as if this has been a standout year in venture funding or a disappointment is likely to reflect whether you’re more excited about dollars (the $4.2 billion invested in 2016 is down about $400 million from the previous year’s tally) or participation: “Four hundred and fifty-one unique investors made bets in digital health this year,” the Rock Health team reveals, of whom 237 investors put down their first stakes in the field. (I’m a participation guy, so count me as an optimist.)

But one set of statistics in the report was particularly sobering—and that’s the number of women CEOs in this burgeoning space. Just 9% of digital health companies had a female boss compared with 11% the year before. (Rock Health counts only U.S. deals and those that are worth more than $2 million, so that limits the universe a bit.)

That 9% share is better than that for the corporate giants—the Fortune 500 has but 25 women CEOs (5%)—but not much better. Given that women have long held a higher share of top management jobs in healthcare than they have in other industries (one in five hospital CEOs are women, for instance), I had thought—and hoped—that the digihealth arena would be more equitable in gender representation than the rest of the techosphere. I was wrong.

So why haven’t we done better? Klick Health’s Diljot Chhina offers some very informed perspective here—in a piece last January for who else? Rock Health.