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Scripps, Microsoft Bring Digital Health to Bear on Pregnancy

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   December 07, 2021

The Scripps Research Digital Trials Center is partnering with a wide range of digital health companies and stakeholders in a PowerMom consortium, aimed at using innovative technology to help monitor new and soon-to-be moms.

The Scripps Research Digital Trials Center is partnering with Microsoft in a new consortium aimed at improving research and care for new and impending mothers.

The PowerMom consortium, managed by the San Diego-based digital health think tank and including Microsoft, WebMD, the March of Dimes, Mae, the Happy Mama Happy Baby Alliance, and the African American Wellness Center for Children and Families, “leverages innovative digital and mobile technologies to recruit, monitor, and communicate with pregnant study participants,” officials said.

The project will use technology like smartphones, wearables, mHealth apps, and telehealth to address the rising maternal mortality rate in the US. Digital health companies participating in the consortium include Fitbit, CareEvolution, Sharecare and Woebot Health.

“Historically, pregnant people have been excluded from most clinical research resulting in significant knowledge gaps when it comes to understanding pregnancy on an individual level,” Toluwalasé Ajayi, MD, a physician and clinical researcher at Scripps Research and the principal investigator of PowerMom, said in a press release. “Staggering racial inequities make it all the more urgent for scientists to help tackle this national public health crisis.”

The PowerMom team has developed an app-based research platform, using Apple’s ResearchKit open-source framing network, that will allow participants to share their data through surveys, electronic health records platforms and wearables, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches.

The project’s launch follows a 2017 pilot phase during which more than 3,5000 pregnant women shared their health data with researchers through the mHealth platform. That pilot program proved the value of a ResearchKit-based platform in recruiting a diverse population of participants, and was featured in a recent study in npj Digital Medicine.

That study also laid the groundwork for the platform’s expansion.

“As the availability of an increasing variety of wireless, connected sensors grows, we anticipate including the automated daily (or even more frequent) collection of multiple parameters known to be germane to pregnancy such as BP, HR, activity, sleep, stress, nutrition, and glucose levels,” the study noted. “We can also assess the impact of new digital platforms and home-based sensors at improving positive behavior change to improve health. In addition to conducting research, a primary future objective of this study is to help women meaningfully interpret and understand their personal data through visualizations, risk profiles, and comparisons to other individuals like them. Ultimately, this will make for more informed decisions for pregnant women when it comes to things from medication choices, to healthy weight gain and ideal sleep during pregnancy.”

“Additionally, participant collected data from this app, such as BP changes over time, can potentially be shared with health care providers to help identify pregnancy complications and better understand an individual’s ‘normal’ values,” the researchers concluded. “Future evaluation of how to best aggregate and share this data with clinicians in a manner that is useful and not burdensome is also necessary.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

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