The newly renamed West Health Institute may have dropped "wireless" from its name a month ago, but its first commercial spinoff fits firmly within the institute's roots.
La Jolla, Calif.-based West Health has formed Sense4Baby to market a wireless fetal monitor by the same name. The company, which, according to the institute, has received a "significant funding commitment" from the West Health Investment Fund, is the first to take up residence at the new West Health Incubator.
The device provides remote monitoring of high-risk pregnancies. A sensor worn around the belly of a pregnant woman captures the heart rate of both the fetus and the expectant mother, and also keeps tabs on uterus contractions. The sensor connects by Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet, which uploads data to a secure cloud for retrieval by a remote obstetrician.
West Health personnel developed the product in-house with a proprietary sensor, radio crystals, wireless chip, motherboard, software and hardware. In partnership with the Carlos Slim Health Institute, West continues to test the technology at clinics in the Mexican state of Yucatan.
"The Sense4Baby platform represents the potential to overcome traditional barriers to accessing quality care for high-risk expectant mothers, while lowering the cost of care," Barry Hudson, vice president of business development for Sense4Baby, says in a press release.
West Health estimates, based on its own research, that technology like Sense4Baby has the potential to produce $1.4 billion in annual savings in the U.S. by eliminating unnecessary testing, avoiding hospitalizations, cutting down on patient transportation costs and improving outcomes. High-risk pregnancies often require the mother to visit a doctor weekly for a non-stress test to measure fetal heart rate and uterine contractions, the institute says.
"Currently, high-risk moms have to go to an OB's office and have routine non-stress testing done when they're suspected of being at high risk. That strategy is moving the mom instead of just moving the data," Dr. Joseph M. Smith, chief medical officer and chief science officer of West Health, says in a video produced by the institute.
"By developing technology that can be deployed wherever Mom is, we can make sure that those tests can occur, decreasing the intrusion of healthcare into Mom's life, and at the same time, doing a better job of collecting that data remotely," Smith adds.