One of these is $1M to fund
Soft wearable patches for stillbirth prevention
I quote from the press release:
Professor Wenlong Cheng from the Faculty of Engineering will lead a project to develop next-generation soft wearable patches that use artificial intelligence (AI) to help prevent stillbirths.
This project aims to directly tackle this unmet clinical challenge by revolutionising the way fetal movements are evaluated through the development of a compact, soft, inexpensive, smart patch, which can automatically detect and report fetal movements anytime anywhere taking advantage of the world-leading advanced electronic skin sensing technologies and AI.
“If successful, this will be world-first wearable technology enabling out-of-hospital screening with the penultimate goal of stillbirth prevention,” said Professor Cheng.
Sounds exciting right?
But I have my concerns because as good as AI may be it can’t replace human intelligence, neither should it. Further AI can’t be programmed for maternal intuition or human response.
I have often heard mothers report a ‘decrease’ in their baby’s movements which machines like a CTG dont seem to detect. This is because it is often the case that the woman is reporting not so much a decrease in frequency but concern about a change. In my experience women will often say “I cant put my finger on it but my baby's movements just feel different”
The algorithm for this new device is going to have to include strength, frequency and pattern all of which have been shown to be important in fetal wellbeing. Pattern includes time of day the baby moves and their usual response to things like hearing a siblings voice, or startling when there is a loud noise. AI is good but can it possibly be that good ?
I am not suggesting for one minute that this patch wont be useful but I do fear that we as a society tend to put our trust in machines and technology . In the case of maternity care this is often at the expense of trusting the woman, her baby, her understanding of her baby and her maternal instincts. PROVIDED this patch is used as a supplement to all then it can be useful however I suspect that it may be yet another device , in a long line of devices, that are overly relied upon and hence further disempowers the pregnant woman.
I hope that we don’t EVER see this patch marketed as “better than a woman” but I suspect we may. I hope I am wrong…we shall see!