Femtech firm Treehouse Medical making its mark in maternal health-care space

Julia Slanina
Julia Slanina is the founder of Ottawa-based femtech firm Treehouse Medical. File photo

Ottawa entrepreneur Julia Slanina’s bid to become a force in the red-hot field of femtech is poised to take a giant step forward.

The Carleton University graduate originally launched her health-care software platform, Treehouse Medical, two years ago in an effort to help maternal health providers such as midwives, doulas and lactation consultants connect with their clients.

As the pandemic catapulted telehealth solutions into the mainstream in 2020, Slanina decided it was time to shift gears. 

Last summer, she set to remould Treehouse Medical into a digital toolkit for providers to manage their businesses. The subscription-based platform stores electronic medical records, helps health-care professionals better organize their practices and provides an easy way for midwives and other providers to communicate with patients. 

“COVID hit, and we were like, ‘Well, (remote healthcare technology) is going to become the norm, so a company like ours is going to dissolve fast. We need to pivot and survive,’” Slanina explains.

Her efforts paid off earlier this month when Treehouse Medical received $30,000 in cash and in-kind services after winning Canada’s Total Mom Pitch. Launched by Canadian social enterprise Total Mom, the competition was presented by the Scotiabank Women Initiative, a program that supports women-led businesses, and sponsored by Visa Canada. 

'Clear growth path'

For Slanina, who’s bootstrapping her business on a “shoestring budget” while raising a five-year-old son, the prize was a godsend.

“I can really see a clear growth path,” she adds with a smile.

Treehouse Medical is part of a rapidly growing healthtech category dubbed “femtech.” Short for female technology, it refers to software, medical devices and services that focus on women’s health issues, such as fertility, pregnancy and nursing care.

According to Forbes, startups in the emerging sector brought in almost US$800 million in funding in 2019, and market research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts femtech will be a $50-billion industry within the next four years.

Now, with Treenhouse Medical’s platform out of beta testing and ready to hit the market by early June, Slanina is hoping to get a piece of that pie.

Her funding win is the latest milestone in what’s been a gruelling entrepreneurial journey for the former Global Affairs Canada employee.

Slanina dropped out of medical school six years ago to take care of her mother, who had terminal cancer, and soon became a mother herself. Juggling so many responsibilities made her painfully aware of the lack of support for new and expectant mothers as well as their health-care providers.

The need for better communication and management tools has become even more acute in the past year, she adds.

“Birth doesn’t stop just because a pandemic hits,” Slanina says. “There needs to be a good way to support the providers that are either working from home or going into clinics. But (technology) also has to support the parents and the expectant mothers as well because they’re terribly isolated right now.”