Monitoring pregnancy with your mobile phone

27 Sep 2018

Image: Serhii Bobyk/Shutterstock

TechWatch editor Emily McDaid spoke to Nirmala Bhogal of MiCare Technologies, a company providing connected health services for antenatal care.

MiCare Technologies stands for ‘maternal integrated care’. The company is aiming to bring connected health to common pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes.

“Many women with complicated pregnancies are dragged in and out of clinics weekly. You could spend all day travelling to and from appointments,” said CEO Nirmala Bhogal. “Our system connects patients to their doctors, no matter where they are.”

The idea behind MiCare is that it remotely monitors blood glucose, blood pressure, weight and other factors such as kidney function.

“It can save £350 for the NHS or other healthcare provider in eliminated clinic appointments, per pregnancy,” Bhogal said.

The system also aims to bring problems to the doctor’s attention quicker. The founders say they’ve invented a “pre-eclampsia test that detects it a whole trimester earlier”.

Bhogal said: “With maternal health matters, if you don’t intervene in a timely manner, then the risks are going to be higher.”

blonde woman with brown-haired man and dark-haired woman, all wearing blazers and standing outside.

From left: Lana McClements, Chris Watson and Nirmala Bhogal of MiCare Technologies. Image: TechWatch

The founders of MiCare feel that more needs to be done to connect patients and doctors remotely. They point to the need to reduce stress for patients and lower costs for providers.

“Connected health is the thing on the tip of everyone’s tongue. However, so few systems are actually capable of capturing data on multiple clinical test or risk-predictive markers and integrating them remotely,” Bhogal insisted.

Apart from the bespoke tests that the founders have developed, their system simply connects into a pre-existing kit that the NHS and other health providers already use – for example, heart rate monitors or blood glucose testing kits.

“All the patient needs is their usual devices, Bluetooth and a smartphone,” Bhogal said. The system also alerts patients when they need to take their tests or their medication. “It’s all done through your mobile phone,” she said.

health app on mobile phone displaying blood glucose readings in pink.

MiCare screen. Image: MiCare

I ask Bhogal what’s next for the team. She said: “Our next market is private care, possibly fertility treatment using hormone tracking. Women with diabetes often find it more difficult to conceive. Here, we have the ability to improve the standard of care.”

Regarding when it will be ready to go to market, Bhogal said: “Our prototype is ready for trial. We’ve spoken to Mayo Clinic in the US and private clinics across Ireland about testing the platform.”

MiCare was founded in March 2018 by two Queen’s University Belfast lecturers, Dr Chris Watson and Dr Lana McClements. Bhogal tells me that they’re currently “looking for seed investment” and “talking to potential investors”.

With 200,000 pregnant women having gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes in the UK, that’s a lot of clinic appointments avoided.

Bhogal also said that better maternal monitoring can reduce emergency deliveries, which come with a price tag of at least £700 per pregnancy. If there are problems with the baby’s health, just one day of neonatal care can run up to £1,200, according to NICE.

The MiCare team has done some research of its own, finding that two out of three diabetic pregnant women said they’re typically in the clinic for more than three hours, and 90pc said they would find it acceptable to use a smartphone to send their data to the clinic instead.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

MiCare Technologies is a finalist in the annual Invent competition run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, aiming to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2018 will take place on Thursday 11 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund.

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland