7 Questions to Consider When Evaluating Digital Maternal Health Tools

Emily Watson
March 8, 2024
5 min read
We’re at a really exciting time in digital health.

Healthcare organizations are leveraging the benefits of technology to close care gaps, improve outcomes, and reduce unnecessary healthcare spending that results from inefficient, fractured systems.

But it’s also an overwhelming time for healthcare leaders who are tasked with deciding which tools they should invest in to meet their organization’s goals.

Just looking at digital maternal health alone, the options are vast.

These solutions are all addressing very important problems when it comes to the health of expecting and new moms and parents—preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, prenatal and postpartum education, birth support, mental health, lactation support—the list goes on.

But every organization has limited resources so they must be strategic and intentional about what solutions they consider investing in.

Here are a few things to consider when vetting different digital maternal health tools for your organization.

1. Does it focus on solving your primary problem really, really well?

In other words, does it go narrow and deep in your problem area and get cost-saving outcomes or is it more of a one-size-fits all solution that does lots of things superficially (including your pain point) and get just okay outcomes?

Next step: Identify the primary pain point that your organization is trying to solve. Ask

yourself: What factor(s) are driving poor health outcomes for mom or baby, poor provider satisfaction or HEDIS scores? Is it high NICU stays? Overwhelmed behavioral health? Use this pain point as a north star to determine the best-fit solution to invest in now.

2. Is the user experience delightful?

This may sound like we’re talking about more of a direct to consumer product rather than a healthcare product, but the user experience matters. It can mean the difference between 40% engagement and 5%. Healthcare apps and tools can be notorious for feeling too clinical. It’s important to find the one that blends clinical effectiveness and user experience really well

Next step: Ask for a walk-through of the app experience from onboarding to engagement. Are you evaluating a product for moms but not a mom yourself? Ask a mom friend to go through it and give feedback.

3. Are there multiple ways to onboard into the app?

A digital health tool can have lots of bells and whistles, but if users are not able to find their way into it, then those things don’t matter. For the perinatal population in particular, moms are inundated with new information—baby’s growth and development, information on prenatal care, birth prep support—and solutions have to get creative to get mom’s attention.

Next step: Understand the different pathways a mom could be introduced to a particular app and their conversion rates. This information not only helps determine which app is more likely to deliver results, it can also inform your strategy for reaching your particular population.

4. Does the digital maternal health tool account for the unique challenges of a diverse perinatal population?

To deliver equitable maternal care that is accessible to all, digital solutions must strive to overcome some basic barriers—multiple languages, accessible reading grade level, video and audio capabilities, available 24/7.

Next step: Explore the ways in which the digital health tool is creating more accessibility. Understand the barriers to accessing care for your perinatal population and see if this tool would be easily used by all or only a subset of mothers?  

5. Is user data easy to access and can you get the type of data you are looking for to show engagement and efficacy?

One of the biggest benefits of digital health tools is the ability to capture lots of data. But this data is only useful if it is readily accessible and legible by you and other stakeholders. When data is clunky and not readily available, it prevents you from being able to leverage the data to make timely and informed care decisions.

Next step: Make a list of the data you would want to see to measure success. Is it outcome data, SDoH, engagement stats? Ask for a demo of how you would visualize this data. Is the data real-time so you can analyze at any time or do you have to download or request it when you want to access it?

6. Does it play nice with existing interventions and other digital solutions?

Organizations are in constant evolution, expanding their suite of maternal health offerings and digital care. It is important to consider solutions that can integrate with or complement other solutions so that patients, providers, and system infrastructure are not dealing with clunky, fractional systems.  

Next step: Inquire about integration potential that would deliver maximum efficacy with lowest lift. Some digital solutions are most effective (high engagement, good outcomes) when kept intact vs. others may be able to be white-labeled or “deconstructed” to fit into existing digital solutions to keep the landscape streamlined.

7. Is the team behind the solution a good partner?

Technology is only as good as the people behind it. A digital health solution’s team is there to make sure the product is enabling you to achieve your goals more easily and most cost-effectively than without the product. They need to be there to help troubleshoot, be willing to pivot, and be committed to delivering optimal results. They also need to be reliable and transparent with updates and progress so that you know how your investment is going.

Next step: Ask the team for examples of how they work with existing partners, the cadence of communication, updates, and meetings. Then ask for references to corroborate what they have already shared. It’s a good sign when an organizations talks about their other customers in terms of “relationships” and “partnerships” rather than “deals,” “accounts,” or even “customers.”

We have a lot of work to do to better care for expecting and new moms, so it is promising that there are innovative solutions tackling each of the care gaps. But this also makes the digital maternal health landscape overwhelming. As you consider your maternal health strategy, consider these questions to help you gain more clarity and confidence in your investment.