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HRSA Challenge Eyes Telehealth, RPM Programs for Maternal Care

The US Health and Resources Administration has launched a $350,000 remote patient monitoring challenge to identify mHealth and telehealth platforms that can improve care management for pregnant women.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A new federally funded challenge aims to identify telehealth and mHealth platforms that can help prenatal care providers remotely monitor pregnant women.

Launched by the US Health and Resources Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the $375,000 Remote Pregnancy Monitoring Challenge is one of four contests looking for “low-cost, scalable, innovative solutions that improve the health of mothers and children across the US.”

The challenge targets a pain point in healthcare: improving access to care for underserved pregnant women. The barriers may be cultural, economic or geographic, but they contribute to a national crisis that has seen the maternal mortality rate jump 26 percent since 2000.

The issue has also caught the attention of Congress.

“As the rest of the world works to improve maternal health outcomes, skyrocketing maternal mortality rates here in the United States are precipitating a public health crisis—one that puts mothers of color and low-income mothers especially at risk,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said in introducing the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act last month, which seeks to improve Medicaid support for maternal care programs delivered through telemedicine.

“Maternal mortality and morbidity, especially among communities of color, is an urgent public health issue that demands a comprehensive, proactive approach,” he said. “By enhancing Medicaid's maternal health coverage, this bill will reduce disparities in access to care and improve health outcomes for all mothers.”

The HRSA challenge targets the current standard of care for pregnant women: 15 face-to-face doctor’s visits prior to the child’s birth. Underserved women often can’t meet that goal, either because they can’t get to the doctor’s office or that type of care isn’t available to them.

“This challenge is designed to solicit innovative solutions that increase remote and virtual access to quality care for low-income pregnant women,” the HRSA website notes. “Such innovations may include alleviating barriers to quality care and improving communications among patients, providers and/or broader support networks. Solutions will empower pregnant women with knowledge and tools to take charge of their health and their care.”

A connected health platform would ease that burden by enabling patient and doctor to meet in a virtual care setting, at a time, place and frequency convenient to both parties. Such a platform would also enable the care provider to provide maternal and child health resources, such as daily health and wellness reminders.

A remote patient monitoring platform might also include mobile devices that could track the patient’s health, activity and sleep patterns, enabling providers to spot trends and intervene when needed.

Submissions are due by the end of the day on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

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