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mHealth Platforms Are a Valuable Resource for New, Expecting Moms

WellCare of Nebraska's rollout of its "Baby's First" text messaging platform is the latest in a growing collection of mHealth platforms designed to help expecting and new parents.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- New mothers in Nebraska now have an mHealth resource for baby and postpartum health and wellness.

WellCare of Nebraska, a subsidiary of Florida-based WellCare Health Plans serving 86,000 Nebraskans on Medicaid, has launched a free text-messaging program to assist mothers up to 15 weeks after childbirth.

The program, the first of its kind in Nebraska, is one of several launched across the country to connect with new parents on their mobile devices during those vulnerable first months after the birth of a child. A recent survey from Google found that new and expecting parents launch twice as many Internet searches as those without children.

“Many new parents are overwhelmed due to all the changes a new baby brings, which can lead to questions regarding a baby’s health like ‘is this normal’ or ‘what do I do,’” Dr. Stephen Lazoritz, medical director at WellCare of Nebraska, said in a press release. “This program will provide our members as well as the community answers to help give their babies the best possible start in life and to support good health.”

The “Baby’s First” service, developed by GoMo Health, offers interactive support, including videos, on topics that include child development and nurturing, vaccinations, wellness visits, breastfeeding, home safety, nutrition, developmental milestones, and balancing the needs of a new baby with siblings and other family members.

In Arizona, the Care1st Health Plan, also a WellCare affiliate, launched the Pacify mobile app two months ago in a pilot program designed to help new mothers and those who have had a baby within the past 12 months and who are on the state’s Medicaid program.

"The Pacify mobile app will provide immediate, cutting-edge support for new moms at the touch of a button," George Brandes, co-founder and chief operating officer of Pacify Health, which developed the app, said in a press release. "Care1st members will now have an unprecedented level of access to care, with video-enabled consults available even in the middle of the night and on weekends when there aren't a lot of other options." 

In Georgia, meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield launched a maternity telehealth platform for members of its State Health benefit Plan, giving new and expectant mothers access to virtual visits with lactation consultants, counselors and registered dietitians.

Just last month, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women's Mental Health unveiled the MGH Perinatal Depression Scale (MGHPDS), a free iPhone app designed to help new mothers cope with postpartum depression and give researchers access to patient-generated data to help in identifying and treating the issue.

"Those who download the app and complete the included questionnaires may also consent to share their scores with researchers within our center here at MGH, further assisting in the development of an even shorter scale with greater specificity than what is currently available," Lee S. Cohen, MD, director of the Ammon-Pinizzotto Center and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release. "It is our hope that - as screening for PPD becomes increasingly common across the US and globally - easy-to-use tools like the MGHPDS, which can be readily used on smartphones and other digital devices, will lead to more accurate screening of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and to improved clinical outcomes for patients."

The benefits of mHealth access to information have been proven. A Wyoming-based study found that women in the state’s Medicaid program who had access to a customized app were more likely to consult with doctors during pregnancy and deliver healthy babies. And a study conducted by researchers at the schools of medicine at Boston University, Yale University and the University of Virginia found that text messages on safe sleep practices helped new mothers protect their infants against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

"A lot of parents can be overwhelmed when caring for a new baby, partly because they are not sure what to do or get different advice from different people,” Rachel Moon, MD, of the UVA School of Medicine, said of the project, conducted in 2016 with some 1,263 new parents through 16 hospitals around the country. “We think that the videos and support that we provided in the texts and e-mails helped to give parents the information that they needed when they needed it and also addressed common concerns many parents have."

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