App for doctors monitoring mothers-to-be

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 24, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — In labor?
There’s an app for that.
Obstetricians at Rowan Regional Medical Center are among the first in the nation to use a mobile phone application created by AirStrip Technologies.
The app, called AirStrip OB, allows physicians to monitor contractions and fetal heartbeat from afar, saving precious minutes when a fetus is in distress.
Dr. Mike Mills of Salisbury Ob/Gyn served on the steering committee to implement the new technology at Novant Health hospitals, including Rowan Regional.
If labor and delivery nurses are concerned about what they see on monitors at the hospital, they alert the doctor on call, who pulls up the same images in real time on a smartphone or tablet.
“I can begin interventions immediately, rather than after the 10 minutes it takes for me to get from home to the hospital to look at the screen,” Mills said.
Interventions include everything from having the woman lie on her other side to alerting an anesthesiologist to prepare for an emergency Cesarean section.
That 10 minutes can make a huge difference, he said.
“This means safer moms and safer babies,” Mills said.
During labor and delivery, things can change quickly. With the new technology, physicians now have access to all notes and care nurses have provided since a patient entered labor and delivery.
Doctors also can scroll back on monitor readings to see how contractions or fetal heart rate have changed.
In the past, nurses at Rowan Regional would call a physician and describe what they saw on the fetal heart rate monitor, the most important indicator of fetal wellbeing.
That’s no longer necessary.
“It’s like the difference between someone describing to you what a sunset looks like and seeing that sunset for yourself,” Mills said.
Registered nurse Shannon Fowler said she loves the new technology, which has been in use at Rowan Regional for about a month.
“If we are second guessing something, it’s very nice to have the opinion of the doctor immediately,” Fowler said.
And it’s nice for physicians to give that opinion from home or a restaurant or Lowe’s, Mills said.
“In the interpretation of the fetal heart rate monitor, the buck stops here,” he said.
Health care providers call the squiggly lines representing contractions and fetal heart rate a “strip,” hence the name AirStrip.
Mills and Dr. Jessie Blumenthal of Carolina Women’s Health Associates in Salisbury were among a dozen obstetricians who advised Novant Health on implementing the new technology.
Novant is the first health-care system in North Carolina to use the smartphone application. About 125 physicians at nine Novant Health hospitals are currently using AirStrip OB software to monitor patients from remote locations.
At Rowan Regional, which delivered about 800 babies last year, 92 percent of physicians who provide maternity care use AirStrip OB, which received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in 2006.
“We anticipate better communication and decisions … and healthier babies as a result of faster delivery decisions,” Rowan Regional spokeswoman Robin Baltimore said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.