Precision medicine in pregnancy

VARDA SHALEV
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By adopting a precision medicine approach to pregnancy management, we can help empower today’s expectant parents in their individual pregnancy journey and provide physicians with the tools to provide optimum care.

The next revolution in healthcare is moving towards an outcomes-driven, prevention-focused future where precision medicine is centered around the patient. This is considered by many to be the ultimate endgame — by leveraging massive amounts of personal health data collected and shared through technology, healthcare providers will be able to deliver more personalized care to better treat each individual patient. And while precision medicine’s potential has come to fruition in areas of medicine such as cancer treatment and cardiovascular disease, we have yet to apply these advances to pregnancy care.

Despite the fact that nearly 136 million babies are born each year worldwide, pregnancy itself remains in many ways an informational mystery for both physicians and expectant parents. Data about the health of mother and baby is fragmented, sometimes unclear and not always reliable, making it difficult to see the true and full picture of a pregnancy. For decades, limitations in technology and data collection have restricted the timing and quality of information available to both expectant parents and their care providers. But, by looking beyond the conventional realm of pregnancy management and taking advantage of the growing array of new digital health solutions and technologies, we can demystify pregnancy and provide the precision approach that both parents and physicians crave.

For example, utilizing digital health technologies such as wireless, remote monitoring would allow us to expand pregnancy management beyond the clinic and into the home with continuous data collection. This would enable parents and physicians to better monitor the pregnancy’s progress and address issues or concerns in real-time. Investing in big data analytics could take this even further — making it possible for physicians to not only access real-time information, but also better observe changes and evaluate trends that allow for more precise care and proactive intervention for each individual pregnancy. And by combining the predictive algorithm capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies with the continuous collection of data, we could even move beyond the individual pregnancy journey to provide insights and learnings at the population health level.

Taking this personalized and data driven approach to pregnancy management would ultimately help parents and physicians better chart a path towards healthier outcomes for mom and baby. In fact, improved outcomes have already been demonstrated in other areas of medicine using similar approaches. For example, in conditions such as heart failure and COPD, remote monitoring programs have demonstrated better outcomes by helping reduce emergency room visits, decreasing hospital readmissions and improving survival rates.

There are also less clinical but equally important benefits for expectant parents, who can feel more connected to baby and their community of care — offering a sense of comfort, security and agency in their pregnancy journey.

As a physician, a mother, and now a grandmother, I know that every pregnancy is unique, and I understand the challenges that come with a lack of knowledge and insight into the pregnancy experience. Right now, we are managing pregnancy the same way we have done for decades, based on episodic information that provides little in the way of precision care. However, by leveraging new technologies and solutions, such as remote monitoring and AI, we can instead take an approach to care that is precise, predictive, proactive and participatory — the fundamental pillars underlying precision medicine. With this “precision pregnancy management” we can empower today’s expectant parents in their individual pregnancy journey and provide physicians with the tools to provide optimum care.

Precision medicine in pregnancy