PhD Student, Indiana University / Regenstrief Institute


What low cost global health solutions can be used to address the US maternal care crisis?

At $111 billion a year, US spending on maternal health is twice that of most other high-income countries. US hospital deliveries alone may cost up to four times more than other European countries. Such extensive spending places a significant burden on US healthcare services and insurers, and has led to significant political debate in recent times.

But despite such spending, US maternal mortality rates have surged by 136% between 1990 and 2013. The risk of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) leading to life-long health problems is even greater. American women are more likely to die during childbirth or related complications than women of any other high-income country. In contrast, many low-income countries such as Timor Leste, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Uruguay have significantly improved their maternal care outcomes during the same time period. This startling turn of events has raised the possibility that maternal care interventions that have met with success across low income settings can be beneficial to the US, and may significantly reduce healthcare costs while improving outcomes.

The identification of innovations that have already met with success across low-income settings and adopting these innovations for use in high-income countries is referred to as reverse innovation. Such innovations would by nature be cost efficient, easier to adopt and maintain. To date, reverse innovation has won considerable success, and been adopted by brands such as Microsoft, Nokia, Tata Motors, and Nestle. However, there have been no previous efforts to understand the value of reverse innovation in improving US healthcare challenges despite significant promise of doing so.

In this paper, we present our efforts to apply reverse innovation to one of the biggest challenges affecting the US healthcare system. Via a rigorous literature survey and evaluation process, we identify key technological and procedural changes that have helped improve maternal outcomes the world over, and may be suitable for adoption in the US.


The use of the mHealth program Smarter Pregnancy in preconception care: rationale, study design and data collection of a randomized controlled trial.

Abstract: Unhealthy nutrition and lifestyle contribute to the worldwide rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases. This also accounts for the reproductive population, in which unhealthy behavior affects fertility and pregnancy outcome. Maternal smoking, alcohol consumption and inadequate folic acid supplement use are strongly associated with fetal complications as small for gestational age, premature birth and congenital malformations. In the Netherlands 83% of the perinatal mortality rate is due to these complications and is relatively high compared to other European countries. In order to reduce this prevalence rate, preconception care should be focused on the promotion of health of prospective parents by identification and intervention on modifiable nutrition and lifestyle risk factors. We developed the personal mHealth program 'Smarter Pregnancy' (Dutch version available on: https://www.slimmerzwanger.nl ) to provide individual coaching and information to improve nutrition and lifestyle during the preconception period in order to improve health of the reproductive population and subsequent generations.Women between 18 and 45 years of age, and trying to conceive are eligible for inclusion in a randomized controlled trial. Participants are allocated either to a general population cohort or a subfertile (IVF/ICSI) population cohort. The intervention group receives personal online coaching based on the identified nutrition and lifestyle risk factors at baseline. Coaching comprises recipes, incentives, additional questions including feedback and text and e-mail messages, with a maximum of three per week. The control group only receives one recipe per week to maintain adherence to the program and prevent drop out. Screening questionnaires are send in both groups at 6, 12, 18, and 24 weeks of the program to monitor the change in the identified risk factors.We expect to demonstrate that the mHealth program 'Smarter Pregnancy' can effectively improve nutrition and lifestyle in couples contemplating pregnancy. By the identification and improvement of modifiable nutrition and lifestyle risk factors on a large scale, both reproductive and pregnancy outcomes can be improved and subsequent perinatal morbidity and mortality rates are expected to be reduced. The current use and rapid development of mHealth applications offers new opportunities to reach and educate large populations, which can facilitate the implementation of preconception care.Dutch trial register: NTR4150 . (Registered 19(th) August 2013).

Pub.: 28 Jan '17, Pinned: 06 Jul '17

Systematic review on what works, what does not work and why of implementation of mobile health (mHealth) projects in Africa.

Abstract: Access to mobile phone technology has rapidly expanded in developing countries. In Africa, mHealth is a relatively new concept and questions arise regarding reliability of the technology used for health outcomes. This review documents strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of mHealth projects in Africa.A systematic review of peer-reviewed literature on mHealth projects in Africa, between 2003 and 2013, was carried out using PubMed and OvidSP. Data was synthesized using a SWOT analysis methodology. Results were grouped to assess specific aspects of project implementation in terms of sustainability and mid/long-term results, integration to the health system, management process, scale-up and replication, and legal issues, regulations and standards.Forty-four studies on mHealth projects in Africa were included and classified as: "patient follow-up and medication adherence" (n = 19), "staff training, support and motivation" (n = 2), "staff evaluation, monitoring and guidelines compliance" (n = 4), "drug supply-chain and stock management" (n = 2), "patient education and awareness" (n = 1), "disease surveillance and intervention monitoring" (n = 4), "data collection/transfer and reporting" (n = 10) and "overview of mHealth projects" (n = 2). In general, mHealth projects demonstrate positive health-related outcomes and their success is based on the accessibility, acceptance and low-cost of the technology, effective adaptation to local contexts, strong stakeholder collaboration, and government involvement. Threats such as dependency on funding, unclear healthcare system responsibilities, unreliable infrastructure and lack of evidence on cost-effectiveness challenge their implementation. mHealth projects can potentially be scaled-up to help tackle problems faced by healthcare systems like poor management of drug stocks, weak surveillance and reporting systems or lack of resources.mHealth in Africa is an innovative approach to delivering health services. In this fast-growing technological field, research opportunities include assessing implications of scaling-up mHealth projects, evaluating cost-effectiveness and impacts on the overall health system.

Pub.: 22 Feb '14, Pinned: 06 Jul '17

An analysis of pregnancy-related mortality in the KEMRI/CDC health and demographic surveillance system in western Kenya.

Abstract: Pregnancy-related (PR) deaths are often a result of direct obstetric complications occurring at childbirth.To estimate the burden of and characterize risk factors for PR mortality, we evaluated deaths that occurred between 2003 and 2008 among women of childbearing age (15 to 49 years) using Health and Demographic Surveillance System data in rural western Kenya. WHO ICD definition of PR mortality was used: "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the cause of death". In addition, symptoms and events at the time of death were examined using the WHO verbal autopsy methodology. Deaths were categorized as either (i) directly PR: main cause of death was ascribed as obstetric, or (ii) indirectly PR: main cause of death was non-obstetric. Of 3,223 deaths in women 15 to 49 years, 249 (7.7%) were PR. One-third (34%) of these were due to direct obstetric causes, predominantly postpartum hemorrhage, abortion complications and puerperal sepsis. Two-thirds were indirect; three-quarters were attributable to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS), malaria and tuberculosis. Significantly more women who died in lower socio-economic groups sought care from traditional birth attendants (p = 0.034), while less impoverished women were more likely to seek hospital care (p = 0.001). The PR mortality ratio over the six years was 740 (95% CI 651-838) per 100,000 live births, with no evidence of reduction over time (χ(2) linear trend = 1.07; p = 0.3).These data supplement current scanty information on the relationship between infectious diseases and poor maternal outcomes in Africa. They indicate low uptake of maternal health interventions in women dying during pregnancy and postpartum, suggesting improved access to and increased uptake of skilled obstetric care, as well as preventive measures against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis among all women of childbearing age may help to reduce pregnancy-related mortality.

Pub.: 23 Jul '13, Pinned: 06 Jul '17

Harmonized patient-reported data elements in the electronic health record: supporting meaningful use by primary care action on health behaviors and key psychosocial factors.

Abstract: Electronic health records (EHR) have the potential to improve patient care through efficient access to complete patient health information. This potential may not be reached because many of the most important determinants of health outcome are rarely included. Successful health promotion and disease prevention requires patient-reported data reflecting health behaviors and psychosocial issues. Furthermore, there is a need to harmonize this information across different EHR systems.To fill this gap a three-phased process was used to conceptualize, identify and recommend patient-reported data elements on health behaviors and psychosocial factors for the EHR. Expert panels (n=13) identified candidate measures (phase 1) that were reviewed and rated by a wide range of health professionals (n=93) using the grid-enabled measures wiki social media platform (phase 2). Recommendations were finalized through a town hall meeting with key stakeholders including patients, providers, researchers, policy makers, and representatives from healthcare settings (phase 3).Nine key elements from three areas emerged as the initial critical patient-reported elements to incorporate systematically into EHR--health behaviors (eg, exercise), psychosocial issues (eg, distress), and patient-centered factors (eg, demographics). Recommendations were also made regarding the frequency of collection ranging from a single assessment (eg, demographic characteristics), to annual assessment (eg, health behaviors), or more frequent (eg, patient goals).There was strong stakeholder support for this initiative reflecting the perceived value of incorporating patient-reported elements into EHR. The next steps will include testing the feasibility of incorporating these elements into the EHR across diverse primary care settings.

Pub.: 19 Apr '12, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Assessing preventability of maternal mortality in Illinois: 2002-2012.

Abstract: We sought to describe the potential preventability of pregnancy-related deaths in Illinois from 2002 through 2012 as determined by perinatal centers following the Illinois maternal death review process.We conducted a retrospective review of all known maternal deaths in the state from 2002 through 2012 with complete records in the Illinois Department of Public Health's Maternal Mortality Review Form database. The association between causes of death and potential preventability was analyzed for pregnancy-related deaths.There were 610 maternal deaths in Illinois during the study period (31.8 per 100,000 live births). One-third of maternal deaths (n = 210) were directly or indirectly related to pregnancy, 7.0% (n = 43) were possibly related, and 52.6% (n = 321) were unrelated. Vascular causes were the most common cause of pregnancy-related death, followed by cardiac causes and hemorrhage. One-third of deaths directly or indirectly related to pregnancy were deemed potentially preventable. Hemorrhage and deaths due to psychiatric causes were most likely to be considered avoidable, while cancer and vascular-related deaths were generally not considered preventable.This analysis of pregnancy-related deaths in Illinois, the first in >60 years, found similar causes of death and potential preventability as pregnancy-related death reviews in other states. Analyzing the causes of pregnancy-related death is a critical and necessary step in improving maternal health outcomes, particularly in decreasing potentially preventable pregnancy-related deaths. Greater attention should be directed toward intervening on the provider, systems, and patient factors contributing to preventable deaths.

Pub.: 24 Jun '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Implementation of telehealth is associated with improved timeliness to kidney transplant waitlist evaluation.

Abstract: Introduction The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Transplant Program has made efforts to improve access by introducing Web-based referrals and telehealth. The aims of this study were to describe the programmatic implementation and evaluate the effectiveness of new technology on the timeliness to kidney transplant evaluation at a VA medical centre. Methods Between 1 January 2009 and 31 May 2016, 835 patients were approved for evaluation. Monthly data were summarized as: number of applications, median days to evaluation, and median percentage of evaluations that occurred within 30 days. Temporal trends were analysed using non-parametric comparisons of medians between three eras: Pre Web-based submission, Web-based submission, and Web-based submission with videoconference (VC) telehealth. Results The number of applications did not vary between eras ( p = 0.353). The median time to evaluation and the median percentage of patients with appointments within 30 days improved significantly in the Web-based submission with VC era when compared with the Web-based and Pre Web-based eras (37 vs. 260 and 116 days, respectively, p < 0.001; 100% vs. 8% and 0%, respectively, p < 0.001). Discussion We have been able to markedly improve the timeliness to kidney transplant waitlist evaluation with the addition of telehealth.

Pub.: 27 Jun '17, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Electronic health, telemedicine, and new paradigms for training and care.

Abstract: HIV prevention and care is changing rapidly; guideline revisions and programmatic scale-up require innovative approaches to in-service training and care extension to improve provider practice and care access. We assessed recent (≤12 months) peer-reviewed publications on electronic health (eHealth), telemedicine, and other innovative provider-targeted interventions for HIV-related care.Key developments included systems merging electronic medical records (EMR) with provider clinical decision aids to prompt action, demonstration eHealth, and telemedicine projects, reviews or descriptions of technology to improve connectivity in lower resource settings, and a few trials on provider-centered interventions. Most publications were program reports and few data were available regarding efficacy of eHealth interventions for providers on patient HIV-related outcomes, notably identification and management of antiretroviral treatment failure in Kenya. Better evidence is needed for strategies to train providers and care extenders with the goal to improve impact of HIV prevention and care interventions.Rapid technology introduction and expansion may change the paradigm for improving provider knowledge and practice. Although new, the developments are promising for HIV provider-targeted eHealth and innovations for traditional training. More rigorous testing with randomized trials is needed to demonstrate impact on services for people living with HIV.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0.

Pub.: 27 Jun '17, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Leveraging the Value of Human Relationships to Improve Health Outcomes. Lessons learned from the OpenMRS Electronic Health Record System.

Abstract: Despite significant awareness on the value of leveraging patient relationships across the healthcare continuum, there is no research on the potential of using Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems to store structured patient relationship data, or its impact on enabling better healthcare. We sought to identify which EHR systems supported effective patient relationship data collection, and for systems that do, what types of relationship data is collected, how this data is used, and the perceived value of doing so.We performed a literature search to identify EHR systems that supported patient relationship data collection. Based on our results, we defined attributes of an effective patient relationship model. The Open Medical Record System (OpenMRS), an open source medical record platform for underserved settings met our eligibility criteria for effective patient relationship collection. We performed a survey to understand how the OpenMRS patient relationship model was used, and how it brought value to implementers.The OpenMRS patient relationship model has won widespread adoption across many implementations and is perceived to be valuable in enabling better health care delivery. Patient relationship information is widely used for community health programs and enabling chronic care. Additionally, many OpenMRS implementers were using this feature to collect custom relationship types for implementation specific needs.We believe that flexible patient relationship data collection is critical for better healthcare, and can inform community care and chronic care initiatives across the world. Additionally, patient relationship data could also be leveraged for many other initiatives such as patient centric care and in the field of precision medicine.

Pub.: 02 Feb '17, Pinned: 30 Jun '17