EMDT_European Medical Device Technology

European Medical Device Technology, Spring 2015

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breakthroughs 12 | Spring 2015 European Medical Device Technology emdt.co.uk Novel Wearable Patch Allows Pregnant Women to Measure Contractions Back in 2012, Eric Dy and Julien Pend- ers developed wearable health technolo- gies for corporate partners in consumer and medical markets, then at the electron- ics research center Imec. The aim was to combine clinical quality with consumer form factors. When Penders had his first child, however, both were stricken by the fact that pregnancy was a time full of ques- tions and concerns for expecting mothers who often encountered a lack of reliable information. "Care teams are working with limited data while there are no solu- tions out there to answer their questions and help them live a healthy pregnancy," Penders explained. Dy and Penders decided to found the start-up Bloom to help provide pregnant women with some answers. Their first product is a clinically accu- rate patch that measures and tracks contractions. The patch is based on technology from Imec, where the found- ers have been developing ultralow-power wearable systems for physiological track- ing for more than a decade. It communi- cates the data to a smartphone, where a woman can easily visualize the frequency and duration of her contractions, and share this with her partner or care team. While contractions are measured at the hospital using a tocodynamometer, which is a pressure-based measurement, Bloom takes a different approach. "Our method to contraction monitoring is based on measuring the electrical activ- ity of the uterus. Just like you measure the electrical activity of the heart when doing an ECG check," Penders explained. "The electrical activity of the uterus is the source of the contraction, while pressure is its consequence. Measuring the source of the contractions provides a more direct and accurate measurement." He points out that different types of contractions have different electrical signatures, which makes it possible to differentiate different types of contractions. "We also plan to release upgrades to distinguish between Braxton Hicks and labor-inducing contractions as well as to track other parameters of fetal and maternal health. The consumer-focused platform aims to capture the most com- prehensive dataset on maternal health ever collected," Penders said. Armed with this information, Bloom is looking to partner with clinical researchers to help understand and prevent pregnancy- related complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth. While the technology reassures moth- ers-to-be by helping them to identify con- tractions, it also produces valuable data that might provide women with personal- ized feedback and notifications to manage their health. "Lifestyle-related pregnancy complications result in a significant increase in healthcare costs during pregnancy and labor, and after delivery for both mother and baby," Penders explained. "For example, more than one- half of pregnant women are overweight or obese, which has been shown to increase the risk of c-section. Gestational diabetes mellitus rates are increasing and affect 7 to 18% of pregnancies in the U.S." According to Penders, hypertension complicates 6 to 8% of pregnancies in the U.S. "It is projected that improving the health of women around pregnancy can result in over $26 billion worth of sav- ings annually by just addressing lifestyle- related disease." Penders is convinced that we are on the verge of the next wave of healthcare: the consumerization of health. "One aspect of this trend is the empowerment of consumers with information to bet- ter manage their health to decrease the risk of chronic diseases," he said. "Wear- able technologies, and wearable sensors in particular, will play an essential role in health consumerization by unlocking data only available in hospitals to collect longitudinal health data and deliver new insights about one's lifestyle. However, most wearables today fail to sustainably engage people in their health." According to the company, there is no other consumer product currently allowing pregnant women to track their contractions. With 126-million newborns every year globally, including about 4-million births per year in the U.S., 5 million in Europe and 16 million in China, the potential market is enormous. —Thomas Klein

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