Hillel's Tech Corner: Pregnancy care done right

Nuvo, a Tel-Aviv based start-up, has developed an innovative monitoring platform that women can administer at home as prescribed by their doctor.

Pregnant woman (Illustrative) (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Pregnant woman (Illustrative)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
If you are a parent, or if you have ever been an active partner throughout a pregnancy journey, the thought that technology should be playing a more significant role must have crossed your mind. Just think about pregnancy monitoring specifically. 
For starters, how much have the devices we use to detect things like fetal movements, fetal heart rate and maternal heart rate really changed in recent years? Not to get too graphic here, but think about the expecting woman going into the doctor’s office, getting undressed, having that highly unpleasant gel spread all around her stomach and then using a device developed decades ago to search for a heart beat. 
I am thankful for what we have, but that doesn’t sound like a mother-centric 21st-century solution.
Furthermore, in the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do expecting mothers deal with the need for tele-medicine and remote monitoring? Everyone is trying to reduce exposure to the virus, yet pregnant women are expected to go into the doctor’s office regularly to get monitored. And I haven’t even mentioned high-risk pregnancies and the need for more efficient and real-time solutions.
Nuvo, a Tel-Aviv based start-up, has developed an innovative monitoring platform that women can administer at home as prescribed by their doctor. It is called Invu. As of March 2020, Invu is FDA cleared for its remote pregnancy-monitoring system.
So how did this all begin? Oren Oz, Nuvo’s founder, explains, “Nuvo was born in 2014 at the same time as my third child. My wife was 37 weeks pregnant and became high risk. We suffered a lot of stress because of outdated pregnancy monitoring and medical practice. Thankfully, our baby was born healthy, but the experience left me with a burning desire to offer parents a more complete sense of their journey and reinvent pregnancy monitoring from the ground up. 
“At that moment, I suddenly realized there had to be a better way to help free women from all the worry. That’s why today Nuvo is driven by this vision, using the best technology available.”
The company is well capitalized and has raised tens of millions of dollars from global investors, and is currently raising additional funding for its US market launch. With the recent FDA clearance, Nuvo aims to completely disrupt the way pregnancy monitoring and treatment take place.
To be clear, the company’s platform works in conjunction with the patient’s physician and does not aim to replace the doctor. The technology enables expecting mothers to connect with their doctors throughout the pregnancy and allow the doctors “to observe changes, evaluate trends, and ultimately make more informed decisions about intervention that will impact not just one patient but also have implications for population health.”
So here is how it all works. The Invu platform consists of a wearable sensor band for data capture that is self-administered by the mother, and is coupled with a powerful cloud-computing environment. The platform is used to conduct fetal and maternal cardiac surveillance, and future iterations will include the ability to monitor uterine activity as well. 
Once the data is analyzed, meaningful but non-actionable data is extracted and given to the mother via a mobile app, and detailed diagnostic data is sent to her healthcare providers via a web portal.
Besides standard pregnancies, Invu will also significantly change the journey for women who fall into high-risk categories by providing more consistent high-quality monitoring. It will also allow women in remote locations better access to care by giving healthcare providers a novel tele-health approach to be used without leaving one’s home.
THE COMPANY explains, “As things stand now, the US lags behind other wealthy countries in terms of maternal/infant mortality. There is also a massive care issue, as obstetricians become rarer throughout the country due to increased malpractice risks and costs [there is currently a shortage of about 8,000 obstetricians in the US]. 
“There are currently approximately four million births in the US annually, and a significant number of the mothers giving birth will fall into either a rural or high-risk category. In the US in 2014, 50,000 women were affected by high-risk pregnancies.”
Nuvo has had a busy year. In addition to receiving FDA clearance, the company also announced a partnership with Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center to develop an innovative pregnancy population management platform. 
Under the agreement, Nuvo has been granted access to Hadassah’s large database of medical records, including pre- and post-natal clinical information for more than 50,000 subjects. Nuvo and Hadassah will initially collaborate on the development of proprietary clinical-decision support systems that can be integrated into the INVU platform, with the potential to deliver alerts and relevant analytics, improve patient outcomes and safely lower healthcare costs. 
Researchers at Hadassah, Nuvo’s partner, published results of a retrospective study evaluating the feasibility of a personalized real-time machine-learning model to accurately predict the clinical decision of whether to perform a Cesarean section or not, and found the model to be accurate.
Another very important point to emphasize is that the INVU platform is only available by prescription from a healthcare provider who will initiate and schedule remote monitoring sessions.
The company’s key demographic are women with high-risk pregnancies. Approximately 25% of all pregnancies fall into the high-risk category, and about 8% of those actually end up with complications. These women require a higher standard of care with more consistent check-ups, and Nuvo aims to provide that through a convenient and mother-centric service. 
The company’s mission is for all pregnant women, but especially those at high risk, to have access to the highest standard of care, whether they are at work or at home. It hopes to eliminate limiting factors such as geographical boundaries, or the lack of access to a local obstetrician.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17.2 women die as a direct result of their pregnancies per 100,000 live births in the US; out of 1,000 births, six babies die either during the second half of the pregnancy or up to four weeks after emerging into the world. 
Pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and child. From 1987-2015, the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the US more than doubled, from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births to 17.2 deaths per 100,000, according to the CDC. 
In certain cases, the ability to regularly monitor the baby in the womb as well as monitor its mother’s vitals is essential to the survival of both mother and child. However, keeping expecting mothers hospitalized or rushing them to the doctor’s office for frequent checkups is not always realistic or viable.
Nuvo is combining cutting-edge hardware, advanced artificial intelligence technology, and revolutionary data analytics to bring pregnancy care to our century. I think we can all agree that this company’s mission, if accomplished, is one that will result in a better and more sustainable future for the next generation, quite literally.