Wouldn't it be handy if you were able to record your baby's heartbeat or even take an ultrasound scan just using a smartphone app at home, without having to make an appointment to visit your obstetrician or go to the hospital, with all the additional travel and waiting time that entails? Technology is currently being developed which ought to make this possible in the near future. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (UKER) are investigating what would be needed in order to offer a service like this to expectant parents. They have received funding of approximately 3.2 million euros over the next two and a half years from the Federal Ministry of Health within the context of the SMART Start project.
Funded projects such as these allow us to make a significant impact on encouraging the digitalization of healthcare in Germany." Prof. Dr. Bjoern Eskofier, one of the coordinators of the project and holder of the Chair of Computer Science 14 (Machine Learning and Data Analytics Lab)
At the current time, antenatal care is entirely analog. All maternity notes listing the results of the various tests are printed out and entered in a physical booklet or antenatal folder. According to Stefan Gradl, a doctoral candidate at Prof. Eskofier's lab, the disadvantages are that 'this mound of paper is liable to get lost or damaged and important results can be easily overlooked or forgotten.'
The days of noting everything down on slips of paper belong to the past.
Help is now at hand thanks to a digital solution. In an ideal scenario, the program will be able in future to derive sensible recommendations for action for all foreseeable situations during pregnancy based on a wide range of data. An initial clinical study with 500 test persons is planned at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. Straightforward wearable devices such as smartwatches will be used as part of the study. The participants will also be given various devices to take home - a contraction monitor supplied by the start-up Bloomlife and portable ultrasound probes.
'The purpose of the study is to find out how we can make it as easy as possible for expectant mothers to carry out routine antenatal examinations themselves,' explains Dr. Hanna Hübner, who is responsible for managing the study at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The aim of the research is to develop as user-friendly an app as possible. Related Stories
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