Mom HEART Program Helps Birthing Patients Keep Tabs on Blood Pressure at Home
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A young african american mother takes her blood pressure reading in her home.

The first days and weeks at home following labor and delivery can be a magical and exhausting experience for new mothers. For some, it can be a dangerous time, too. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy like preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure associated with pregnancy, affect 13% of women and account for almost 7% of all maternal deaths in the weeks following delivery. 

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, our innovative and free Mom HEART (MedStar Maternal Hypertension Education and Awareness through Remote monitoring Technology) program connects women with remote blood pressure monitoring and smartphone-based virtual nursing care. The program is designed to help women manage their own health at home while caring for a new baby. 

In Washington, D.C., the maternal death rate of 44 per 100,000 births is almost twice the national average. Studies have shown that women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) have 50% higher risk of potentially life-threatening complications during 12 weeks after delivery. Black and Hispanic mothers have a substantially higher risk of HDP than white women. 

Typically, women with HDP go home with instructions to come back to the office one to two weeks later to get their blood pressure checked. Research suggests that only 18% of patients with HDP get a follow up visit within six months after delivery. 

We conducted a pilot study that found birthing patients value educational materials about the risks of postpartum hypertension, but barriers such as transportation, childcare, and being overwhelmed with the challenges of having a new baby keep them from getting their blood pressure checked. 

So, the natural next step was to bring that health care to patients where they are—and with funding from America’s Essential Hospitals, Mom HEART was born. We’re already seeing impacts on maternal health in D.C.

How does Mom HEART work?

The Mom HEART program is a partnership between MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the perinatal connectivity organization Mahmee to monitor women’s blood pressure, identify mothers with signs of severe hypertension, and provide wraparound care services. 

All women who deliver at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and are diagnosed with HDP before discharge qualify for Mom HEART. Nurses help patients enroll in the Mahmee platform, download the app, and provide a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuff to take home. There is no cost to patients to participate.

For the first 14 days after giving birth, patients check their blood pressure each day and record how they are feeling. This includes whether they have symptoms of preeclampsia, such as severe headaches, vision changes, pain in the belly, nausea, or shortness of breath. After day 15, check-ins move to weekly until 6-8 weeks after giving birth. 

If a patient has symptoms of preeclampsia or high blood pressure readings, Mahmee’s perinatal nurse contacts them via phone, text message, and/or the app. This experienced nurse directs patients to appropriate follow up care and speaks with providers at the patient’s hospital to discuss next steps. Mahmee also provides wraparound services including breastfeeding support groups, nutrition counseling, and mental health care

Data show that 68% of patients who were enrolled in the Mom HEART program used the blood pressure cuff to monitor their heart health. What’s more, 100% of patients who were advised to come to the hospital for blood pressure treatment got medication. 

This means the patients who could most benefit from Mom HEART were being correctly identified, and we were able to intervene to help improve their health.

Related reading: Chatbot Connects New Moms with Timely Infant and Maternal Care.

Eliminating barriers to save moms’ lives.

Providing remote blood pressure monitoring helps more mothers stay ahead of potentially life-threatening and largely symptomless hypertensive conditions. In collaboration with MedStar Health initiatives like D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms, Mom HEART and Mahmee nurses help patients get the care and support they need quickly and efficiently. 

These free services are focused on improving access and outcomes for all women. We are excited to be able to bring this technology to our patients. Mom HEART helps our patients and neighbors stay well during the precious postpartum period, so they can be there for every milestone and memory.

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