Northwell Health debuts chatbot to cut down the maternal mortality rate

Steven Loeb · January 12, 2023 · Short URL:

The bot will provide education, while also flagging potential problems before they become serious

Pregnancy is a dangerous time for a woman, one filled with a lot of questions about potential risks, especially in the United States, where the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries. It's even worse for Black women, who have a mortality rate that is more than double the average rate and nearly three times higher than the rate for white women.

Perhaps not surprisingly, U.S. women report the least positive experiences among 11 countries studied, including Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Australia.

It's with all that in mind that Northwell Health announced a new chatbot aimed at reducing that maternal morbidity and mortality rate: called the Northwell Health Pregnancy Chats, it will include a health risk assessment, and cover maternal and fetal changes throughout pregnancy, along with blood pressure tracking, prenatal testing, birth plans, and lactation support. 

Northwell Health is New York's largest healthcare provider, serving New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, treating more than 2 million patients annually; it is made of 21 hospitals, 890 facilities, and over 12,000 affiliated physicians.

The chatbot bot, which will be rolled out to obstetrics practices throughout the Northwell system, is meant to be an educational tool for pregnant women, providing them with weekly informational dialogs that are based on their stage of pregnancy, and which will be personalized according to a patient’s self-reported risk factors.

It is also be what Northwell calls "a virtual safety net," meaning the chatbot can identify urgent concerns through designed to help patients notice subtle changes sooner than they otherwise might have. If the chatbot notices something may be wrong, it will trigger an immediate call from a care navigator at Northwell Health Solutions, the health system’s care management arm, or it will instruct the patient to go to the nearest emergency department.

The bot if free for the patient, and can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Northwell conducted a pilot program at one of its obstetric practices, in which the chatbot was used by 1,632 patients, 96% of whom reported being satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the experience.

In the pilot, the chatbot was able to successfully identify urgent health problems, both physical and mental; that included one whose responses regarding blood pressure identified her having severe preeclampsia and another who was flagged for potential self-harm.

According to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, maternal mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting 800,000, women each year in the U.S, and the CDC has found that mental health is leading cause of pregnancy-related death, especially for Hispanic and non-Hispanic White women. The report also found that, among the 1,018 pregnancy-related deaths, 839 of them, or 84%, had been preventable.

“Northwell Health Pregnancy Chats are both extremely comprehensive and highly individualized and are designed to complement the interactions patients have with their providers,” Michael Nimaroff, MD, senior vice president of Northwell’s OB/GYN service line and chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology for North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said in a statement.

“It’s a way to ensure women are never without support, whether they’re in a doctor’s office or in their own home.”

The Northwell Health Pregnancy Chats were developed in conjunction with Conversa Health, an automated virtual health company that was bought by Amwell last year. 

There are a number of services offering virtual care to pregnant women and mothers, including She Matters, an online platform and mobile app designed to support Black women/WOC who experience postpartum comorbiditities and Caraway, a digital healthcare company for college women+ that provides integrated mental, reproductive and physical healthcare services.

There's also Canopie, which is dedicated to providing mental health resources to pregnant women and new moms, and LunaJoy, which provides virtual mental health services for women in all stages of life, from puberty to menopause.

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes