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Virtual patient advocate delivers preconception care to improve pregnancy outcomes
Date:4/30/2013

(Boston) Results of a pilot study suggest that a virtual patient advocate (VPA) could help influence positive changes and help women have healthier pregnancies. Developed at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Northeastern University, "Gabby" is an innovative tool developed to deliver preconception care (PCC) to African-American women through interactive conversations online.

The study results, which are published online in the American Journal of Health Promotion, suggest that Gabby could help identify risk factors and influence positive changes in women before they conceive and decrease the risk for adverse birth outcomes. Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH, assistant professor at BUSM and family medicine physician at BMC, is the paper's first author. Brian Jack, MD, chief and chair of family medicine at BMC and BUSM, respectively, is the paper's senior author. Timothy Bickmore, PhD, associate professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern, collaborated on this study and led the development of the software on which Gabby is based.

PCC addresses family planning, medical conditions and preventive behaviors in a primary care setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed evidence-based best practice guidelines for PCC, but there is a need for more comprehensive PCC implementation. Statistics show that approximately half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. According to the CDC, the fetal mortality rate for non-Hispanic African-American women in 2005 was 2.3 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women.

"Because approximately half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, delivering preconception care during general wellness visits could help reduce infant and maternal mortality rates," said Gardiner.

In order to develop a VPA that participants could identify with and trust, researchers conducted usability studies to gat
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Contact: Jenny Eriksen
jenny.eriksen@bmc.org
617-638-6841
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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