Use of wearable sensors for pregnancy health and environmental monitoring: Descriptive findings from the perspective of patients and providers

Digit Health. 2019 Feb 6;5:2055207619828220. doi: 10.1177/2055207619828220. eCollection Jan-Dec 2019.


Background: Wearable sensors and other smart technology may be especially beneficial in providing remote monitoring of sub-clinical changes in pregnancy health status. Yet, limited research has examined perceptions among pregnant patients and providers in incorporating smart technology into their daily routine and clinical practice.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of pregnant women and their providers at a rural health clinic on the use of wearable technology to monitor health and environmental exposures during pregnancy.

Methods: An anonymous 21-item e-survey was administered to family medicine or obstetrics and gynecology (n=28) providers at a rural health clinic; while a 21-item paper survey was administered to pregnant women (n=103) attending the clinic for prenatal care.

Results: Smartphone and digital technology use was high among patients and providers. Patients would consider wearing a mobile sensor during pregnancy, reported no privacy concerns, and felt comfortable sharing information from these devices with their physician. About seven out of 10 women expressed willingness to change their behavior during pregnancy in response to receiving personalized recommendations from a smartphone. While most providers did not currently use smart technologies in their medical practice, about half felt it will be used more often in the future to diagnose and remotely monitor patients. Patients ranked fetal heart rate and blood pressure as their top preference for health monitoring compared to physicians who ranked blood pressure and blood glucose. Patients and providers demonstrated similar preferences for environmental monitoring, but patients as a whole expressed more interests in tracking environmental measures compared to their providers.

Conclusions: Patients and providers responded positively to the use of wearable sensor technology in prenatal care. More research is needed to understand what factors might motivate provider use and implementation of wearable technology to improve the delivery of prenatal care.

Keywords: Mobile health; environmental sensing; patient acceptability; physician perception; pregnancy health monitoring; wearable sensors.