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YOUR HEALTH: One hospital’s effort to monitor new mothers at home

Doctors are now using monitor cuffs and smartphones to better treat women during and after high-risk pregnancies.

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – Pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes can begin without warning.

Often, women will have no symptoms, but these are conditions that can create long-lasting health problems for both mother and baby.

Skylar Andrews was in perfect health when she became pregnant with her son Zayn.  But toward the end of her pregnancy, Skylar's blood pressure skyrocketed.

Skylar had a condition called pre-eclampsia, dangerous for mom during pregnancy and after.

"It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke over the lifetime about two and a half fold," explained Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Director at Dallas' Magee-Womens Hospital.

That's why doctors encouraged Skylar to check herself at home.

With a portable cuff and a smartphone, she could.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:    The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been an innovator in the use of remote patient monitoring technology.   By reaching patients where they are, using familiar consumer electronics paired with common health peripherals such as blood pressure cuffs and scales, UPMC has dramatically improved patient engagement, reduced emergency department visits, and decreased the number of hospital readmissions for chronically ill patients.

38-year old Jessica Wolfe also needed high-tech support.  After years of battling infertility, this was a big surprise.

"We still struggle with 'Wow this is real'," she said.  "This is happening. We're gonna have a baby."

Jessica is considered higher risk.

She has gestational diabetes.

An app on Jessica's smartphone generates reminders to check her blood sugar four times a day and report back so doctors can respond.

"We want to be able to identify the patients who need a phone call and not just identify them when they show up in the emergency department," said Dr. Simhan.

Skylar's blood pressure is now back to normal.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.