mHealth & Pregnancy: From SMS to Apps & Beyond what are the opportunities?


Inspired by hearing a designer building apps for one of Europe’s leading teaching Hospitals describe how he couldn’t imagine anyone using an app following a bereavement (suicide is now the leading cause of direct maternal deaths within a year after the end of pregnancy) today I submitted the following abstract to present at the International Stillbirth Alliance Annual Conference being held on the 22nd-24th September 2017 at University College Cork with Professor Sam Lingam (with whom I’m working to produce a Long Term Condition and Allergy Paediatric History Questionnaire service). Click here to submit your abstract (submission deadline: 21st April).

Abstract Title: mHealth & Pregnancy: From SMS to Apps & Beyond what are the opportunities?

Overview: In 2017 there are Billion citizens with Smartphones. There’s not a single mid-wife at CUMH who doesn’t have a Smartphone and most have probably already met the last expectant Mother who didn’t have one – especially here in Cork City where Apple HQ employs more than 5,000 staff. But what is the impact and the opportunities that this technology offers for medicine, pregnancy care and how we support Patients and Colleagues who have experienced bereavement?

The presenter (David Doherty) has travelled the world extensively researching the use of Mobile in Medicine and developed the world’s first training course for healthcare professionals on the topic that he has provided to medics and students in some of the world’s leading clinics and medical schools.

In this workshop he’d like to give an overview of the opportunity, share what’s out there, what’s coming and what’s needed to ensure Patients and Healthcare Professionals benefit.

Delegates attending this workshop will leave with an appreciation of how mobile technology can help them work more effectively, give them better connections with Patients and help Patients better manage their health.

Most healthcare professionals find it hard to believe that Parents have spent more than $20Million of their own money buying bluetooth connected pulse monitoring socks so they can try to monitor their babies with their mobile phones at home but this is just the tip of an iceberg and there is lots that we can learn from this behaviour. David will help explain what’s happening and use examples to encourage delegates to adopt mobile first designed services that can help them stay relevant to a generation that is always connected, never switches off and wants to see their data being collectively used to improve our understanding of medicine.

I’ll have to wait to see if the reviewers accept my application to present but I thought the abstract might provide a useful foundation for a blog post listing of global mHealth developments in this area that I find interesting and are having an impact and to get readers suggestions for things I could refer to if the abstract is selected and I present in Cork.

I’ve listed the conference themes together with a few of my own (labelled 1,2,3,etc) below as bold/red/underlined headers. Beneath each I will start by writing draft notes and will then try and build these out and provide links to relevant info etc. If you have any ideas/suggestions please send them over or add them in the comments below and I’ll update the listing:

Risk factors for stillbirth

The opportunity mobile devices offer to let Patients help with the collection of accurate Medical & Genetic Histories

Diabetes: the International Diabetes Federation calls for mHealth to become an embedded compulsory part of how we provide quality care for diabetics.

Family Planning.

Pregnancy after loss


Training Clinicians so they can be more accepting of the opportunities for technology to help.

Intrapartum death

How long before a Mobile phone can be used to safely provide continuous monitoring of a fetal heart rate? Notes on experiences using the Alivecor ECG in Veterinary Medicine.

Review of the 3G Maternal Health Kit deployment in Mexico (a collaboration between the Carlos Slim Health Institute, West Wireless Health Institute and Qualcomm Life).

Risk factors for stillbirth

Identification of risk factors and screening (age, blood type, diabetes, drug misuse, smoking, obesity, previous stillbirth, etc).

Perinatal audit

Investigation of stillbirth

Helping record and standardised reporting.

Anticipatory bereavement

Bereavement care

Impact of stillbirth on healthcare staff

Attach video recording of the CPD Resilience lecture hosted by Prof Lingam at the BMA House

Resilience and self-care

Patient Access to and Understanding of Medical Records: the opportunity to learn from Dr Amir Hannan (>90% of Pregnant Patients at his NHS GP practice have access to their Health Records).

Prevention of stillbirth

Stillbirth awareness

Support info to share with others.


Why did Pope Francis launch a smartphone App in 2013? What does he talk to his 10 million followers on Twitter about?

Perinatal pathology

How would Jeff Bezo’s at Amazon redesign Perinatal pathology and how can mobile phones provide it?

1. Clinical Trials

Apple ResearchKit: There is an incredible motivational opportunity in pregnancy to help others and move our understanding of stillbirths forward through the collective sharing of data.

2. Social Media & Big Data

If you think a Patient has never talked about you online it’s probably because you don’t know how to find it…  What does a reputation/trust economy mean and why should you be interested?

Big Data may have given us Brexit & Trump but how is it letting Advertisers turn your Patients into their customers, why do you need to think about it and what can you do about it?

Would it be helpful to position Child Mortality as the New Green as an effective way of increasing the political interest in improving maternity care globally?

How can Healthcare Professionals develop their online following so that their voices can be heard and influence the priorities of politicians eg. in the NHS just 7% of pregnant Women and new Mothers with Mental Health problems get Specialist Care.

We know online ads are targeting Patients but how are they influencing behaviour and what impact are they having on outcomes?

online ads targeting pregnant patients

We know scammers who advocate quack therapies are targeting Patients in online forums but how are they influencing behaviour, what impact are they having on outcomes and how can we stop it happening?

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 12.37.03

3. Communication

Giving your mobile number to a Patient can be an incredibly caring thing to do and while Neonatal units in Ireland are great at it many places don’t do it at all. How do we ensure training is given so common sense practices like this are maintained? How do ensure medics feel confident using the internet with Patients?

4. Mobile First Design

Professionalism: Young Patients are judging healthcare professionals by how they use technology. If you do everything with paper, have a 10 year old mobile and you don’t know how to use it whether you like it or not the thinking goes that perhaps you’re also not staying up to date with your medicine? How can we tackle this with training?

If you think Parents aren’t yet thinking Mobile First read up on the boom in potentially unsafe babysitting mobile apps.

5. Electronic Health Records: The challenges and opportunities

By recording mental health concerns are we doing the best for our Patients?

Patient Access to their Records: why is the healthcare industry so frightened by the prospect of this and why aren’t we ignoring the opportunity even though we know it can empower Patients to independently help themselves (remember we now live in a world where it’s easy for us to look things up).

6. Some Apps you might like to check out

I’ve posted a poll on the Linkedin mHealth Group (I started this back in 2008 and it now has 8000 members) and I will post details/links here of the recommendations I’ll get back:

i) Build it and they will come: In 2011 the Turkish Mobile Operator Turkcell reported that 1 in 3 of the pregnant women in Turkey were subscribed to the mobile healthcare content. Pregnant women are an early adopter group.

ii) In 2012 John Hopkins Public Health researchers concluded that nearly 2 million rural births in Bangladesh were attended by a healthcare worker because of SMS.

iii) Low cost clinically validated mobile phone based cardiac screening technologies. European Society of Cardiology Management of Cardiovascular diseases during pregnancy Clinical Practice Guidelines.

iv) The ‘Smarter Pregnancy’ personal mHealth program designed to provide individual coaching and information to improve nutrition and lifestyle during the preconception periodThe use of the mHealth program Smarter Pregnancy in preconception care: rationale, study design and data collection of a randomized controlled trial.

v) The Safe Delivery App from the Maternity Foundation

vi) Philips Healthcare: Mobile Obstetrics Monitoring as a model for community-based antenatal care delivery in a low-resource setting

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 00.34.58

vii) The WebMD Pregnancy App by WebMD (the US’s most popular app for pregnancy monitoring) has launched a Healthy Pregnancy Apple ResearchKit app in a collaboration with the Scripps Translational Science Institute, press release:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 23.32.21Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 23.32.34Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 23.32.42

viii) Bloomlife mobile connected contraction monitoring device:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 11.24.38

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 11.28.25


About David Doherty
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