A new pregnancy care app developed by an Augusta University professor will give health care providers a way to monitor their patients remotely.
The Vida app is the brainchild of Dr. Marlo Vernon, an assistant professor in the College of Allied Health Sciences, and is being designed to provide doctors with real-time patient data, including sudden changes in blood pressure or self-reported mental health. The app will monitor the mothers during both the prenatal and postpartum periods of care.
Vernon was inspired to create the Vida app after researching the nation’s maternal health disparities, and she hopes the software enhances the routine prenatal and postpartum care for pregnant mothers, especially those living in rural areas.
“When I learned more about the growing maternal mortality rates across the country, I wanted to create a tech-based product that would help new moms make informed decisions about their care,” said Vernon. “My goal for the Vida app is to not only improve communications among patients and their providers, but alleviate health care barriers for women living in rural areas with limited access to on-site prenatal care.”
The Vida app design is being funded through a $10,000 cash prize Vernon won after her concept landed her first place in phase one of the Remote Pregnancy Monitoring Grand Challenge, an innovative technology-based competition conducted by Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
As part of the competition, she is now testing a prototype of the app and will present her findings in the next phase of the challenge in August. If her prototype is selected, she may receive up to $25,000 to continue testing the app and proceed to phase three, where she can win $150,000 and have her app tested on a larger scale.
“Challenge entrants included multidisciplinary teams of academics, health professionals, tech companies, which is why I was so honored to be selected to receive funding to further my work in developing an app that I hope will change lives,” said Vernon.
To help Vernon with this project, she is using students in her Innovation in Technology and Health Care class to create the prototype. Health Sciences majors Leigh Zurek and April Parham are taking the course and say this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to work on a project that will impact health care.
“With my interest in maternal and infant health, working on this project has allowed me to marry those ideas and develop something that will impact the health outcomes of women,” said Parham. “Dr. Vernon is innovating for the greater good, and I am excited to be a part of her team.”
Zurek shared similar sentiments.
“As a student, I am grateful to have the chance to help Dr. Vernon on something that can potentially have a lasting impact on how caregivers interact with their patients,” said Zurek. “I am learning a lot about the health care needs of our rural communities, and I am excited about the outcomes of this project.”
Vernon is an award-winning researcher, whose work covers an array of aspects of public health and human behavior, including the analysis of maternal nutrition educational needs of African-American women.
Vernon earned her bachelor’s degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and a doctoral degree from Augusta University. Additionally, she is one of the first graduates of Augusta University’s Applied Health Sciences Program and has been a faculty member since 2018.