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Pregnant, with information

App aims to provide doctors and patients with data that could prevent miscarriages, birth defects

Isis Simpson-Mersha isimpson@mlive.com

MIDLAND — Pregnant women and their doctors may soon easily access information about the risks of medications, thanks to a Midland-based company.

RightAnswer. com, a data solutions company focused on the environment, health and safety, is developing a mobile application, so information about potential hazards of medications taken during pregnancy can be obtained anywhere, and the goal is to make it free.

“This means that they can get this information not just in their office, but when they’re face to face with a patient having to make decisions quickly because they are very pressed for time, and yet they need this information,” said Glen Markham, corporate business developer for Midland-based RightAnswer. The company held a news conference on Oct. 16 at the Midland Center for the Arts in Midland to announce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded RightAnswer a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant for almost $1 million.

Markham said the grant will be dispersed over two years, $499,961 for each year.

Work on the project started in 2015. Markham said during the initial phase of the plan, the company gathered information and developed a prototype app.

“We had to figure out, is this really needed and what is it going to take to do it?” Markham said. “We did a big survey with health care providers about what they do on a day-to- day basis in their workflow. What they’re using for current information.”

According to the CDC, in the past 30 years, first-trimester use of prescription medications has increased more than 60 percent. Today, nine out of 10 women take at least one medication during pregnancy, a RightAnswer news release states.

“This increased usage has high impact, both financially and emotionally,” Markham said in the news release.

“Each year, approximately 40,000 infants are born with birth defects directly attributed to prenatal medication exposure, and birth defects and prematurity alone cost the U.S. about $29 billion a year. This application has the potential to address a huge unmet need.”

Markham also said 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. So, pregnant women often are taking medications for other health conditions before they even know they are pregnant.

“You can’t necessarily plan for that if you’re already taking a medication,” Markham said. “So they go to their health care provider and they go, ‘What do I do now?’ The health care provider then needs a resource to make the decision in conjunction with the patient to say, ‘What’s the best course of action for you and your unborn child to have the best possible outcome?’ ” Project partners are content and technology experts at the University of Washington, who are helping ensure the information dispersed through the app is easy to understand.

Markham said the challenge will be transferring in-depth information to small cellphone screens for the app.

Markham said the goal is to commercialize the app, and get it in the hands of health care providers throughout the country and ideally throughout the world in the next two years.

“If they can create one situation that solves one problem that would’ve otherwise happened because they didn’t have this information, it’s going to be worth it,” Markham said.

Prescription med use during _rst-trimester is up

PERCENT

Today, 9 out of 10 women take at least one medication during pregnancy.

Page illustrated and designed by Katie Howland, MLive

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