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Smart phone app providing unique services to expectant mothers
A new app from the Wyoming Department of Health connects pregnant Medicaid clients with prenatal services and information. Photo by Eric Blom

Smart phone app providing unique services to expectant mothers

Apr 15, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

WYhealth Due Date Plus helps women follow through on prenatal care with the goal of preventing premature births.

A new smart phone app from the Wyoming Department of Health could help many Fremont County expectant mothers navigate their pregnancies and ensure their babies are healthy. The program is called WYhealth Due Date Plus.

The application is free and available to anyone, but a special version for women receiving Medicaid benefits connects them with unique services. According to the most recent data available, Medicaid pays for 62 percent of births in Fremont County, meaning many local mothers could take advantage of the app's special features.

WYhealth Due Date Plus is designed to help women follow through on prenatal care with the goal of preventing premature and low-weight births. Wyoming's Medicaid program released the app in February.

"We're very interested in getting the best outcomes for our women," said Dr. James Bush, Wyoming Medicaid medical director. "It's the right thing to do, and it's a very cost effective thing to do."

The app is available for Android smart phones at the Google Play store and for iPhones and iPads through Apple's App Store.

"A lot of these women may not have as much access to prenatal care," Bush said.

Wyoming is so sparsely populated, great distances can separate residents from their health care providers, he said. When an issue with their pregnancy comes up, some expectant mothers may not want to travel to get it checked out right away, Bush said.

His agency hopes the app better connects those residents with medical services.

"If you're on the most remote farm, as long a you have cellphone access, they can get instant (help)," he said.

The app reminds users to take prenatal vitamins and to schedule appointments, such one to test for gestational diabetes, with their obstetricians at different milestones in the pregnancy. Users can also input their zip code, and the app tells them where the nearest obstetrician is.

WYhealth Due Date Plus also asks questions of the user to screen for about 50 conditions that could affect the pregnancy, such as if the mother smokes or has had a caesarean section before, which can complicate delivery. If the woman says she smokes, the app gives her the number for Wyoming's Quitline, which helps people stop using tobacco.

If she has a factor that could complicate the pregnancy, it gives her easy to understand information and suggest actions the woman can take. For instance, she could add the issue to a list of questions to ask her doctor at her next visit or she could a call help line staffed by nurses at all hours of the day.

Women who are not Medicaid clients can use the app to receive information and reminders but would not have access to the round-the-clock help line or other Medicaid-specific services.

Bush thinks the app will be a success and has already seen evidence to that effect.

In its first month, roughly 100 people downloaded it, he said. Between five and 10 clicked through to various services it offers online.

In a state that has seen about 7,500 births in the three most recent years with data available, the 100 users represents more than 1 percent of pregnant women.

Bush did not have county-specific data.

The company that designed WYhealth Due Date Plus has released it before for smaller groups and found 90 percent of the women who started working with the app stayed engaged with it through their whole pregnancy, Bush said.

Besides delivering better services to pregnant women, the app could save the state money.

"If we could prevent one low birth baby or neonatal intensive care unit baby, we've paid for the whole program right there," Bush said.

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