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Expecting a baby? There’s an app for that

Are you pregnant? Boise doctor’s Q&A may help you out

A Boise maternal fetal medicine doctor built the "Pregnancy Power" iOS app to answer questions many new mothers have, from when to start taking prenatal vitamins to when to stop flying on an airplane. See examples from the quiz here.
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A Boise maternal fetal medicine doctor built the "Pregnancy Power" iOS app to answer questions many new mothers have, from when to start taking prenatal vitamins to when to stop flying on an airplane. See examples from the quiz here.

What’s more important? Knowing your fetus is the size of an orange? Or knowing that your baby isn’t kicking enough, and you should call the doctor?

James Betoni, a Treasure Valley maternal fetal medicine specialist, felt strongly enough about the latter that he co-created an iOS app to help women stay informed about pregnancy.

Betoni’s practice focuses on high-risk pregnancies — meaning the mother or baby has a health condition or trait that needs special care.

He moved here from Colorado, where he and a nurse practitioner had written a book in 2010 called “Pregnancy Power,” hoping to give their patients more information from the planning stage through childbirth.

Betoni and his writing partner, Camilla Bicknell, always felt they didn’t have enough time to answer every patient’s questions. “We were frustrated,” he says.

Eventually, they also began to notice that a lot of patients were coming into the office with their eyes glued to their smartphones. That’s how the Pregnancy Power app was born.

Betoni started building it in July 2015, hiring a developer in Los Angeles. It took a year to launch the app for the iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch. There isn’t yet an Android version.

“I hope for providers like obstetricians and midwives and nurse practitioners, that it gives them a little break, because it answers questions,” Betoni says. “Most obstetricians see one prenatal visit every 10 minutes, so they’ll see six in an hour. [What if] you’re a first-time mom, and you have seven questions? ... The obstetrician is in the room for 90 seconds.”

WHAT’S IN IT?

The app includes:

▪  A multiple-choice quiz. The quiz stores questions that aren’t answered correctly, so that expectant mothers and fathers can research at their own pace and “clear out” those questions as they find the answers.

▪  No advertisements. It costs $1.99 to unlock the full app. The app is broken into “chapters” based on what happens in each trimester and typical questions a patient might ask. The first two chapters are free.

▪  Answers based in science. Unlike the random assortment that patients get when they ask Dr. Google, the app and book draw from data and research. The app includes references to its source material.

Want to try the app? Go to www.pregnancypower.org and follow the “Get the app” link to download it.

Betoni says a medical student could learn from the app, too. “They don’t teach you when you’re a resident about breastfeeding, and can you dye your hair?” he says.

HOW THEY DID IT

Betoni says he and Bicknell self-funded the app over a 12-month development period.

“I’ve got, like, 16 credit cards that are maxed out,” Betoni says. “It’s so much more expensive than I ever, ever, ever thought.”

Betoni budgeted about $1,000 a month. It has turned out to cost $30,000 for basic development — plus legal, advertising and ongoing update costs. Based on the app purchases so far, he doubts he will recoup his expenses.

“We lowered the price several times, and there have been hundreds of downloads but very few purchases,” he says.

He hopes the purchases will pick up, or he’ll need to pull the app “and chalk it up to a learning experience,” he says. “That was really expensive, but still I learned a lot.”

Betoni says he hasn’t made a practice of telling patients about the app or advertising it in his office because he thinks that would be inappropriate.

FITONE: A RACE APP

Did you see some FitOne participants staring at their smartphones as the annual race wound through Downtown Boise last month?

It’s likely they weren’t playing a game but were checking the race route, looking up the healthy-living expo schedule, or logging in as a runner during the 5K, 10K and marathon event presented by St. Luke’s Health System to benefit the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.

The FitOne app took less than two months to build, from conception to launch. Free to users, it costs St. Luke’s about $4,700 per year — an annual fee to use a platform created by a firm in Austin, Texas — that St. Luke’s considers part of its investment in FitOne.

It is available for both iOS and Android.

About 12 percent of the race participants downloaded the app, with people using it more than 11,500 times since June.

For now, it’s an event app, but FitOne Executive Director Heather Hill thinks it could become more.

“I think as FitOne continues to evolve, to offer more things throughout the year, I see that as a great opportunity for people to come full circle,” she says. “In the future, our vision is that the app could become a source of helpful information for participants in achieving their healthy lifestyle goals, whether that be through pushed content, tips, tools and resources — or tracking towards challenges and goals.”

Making a unique fitness product will be the challenge.

“There are so many options out there already. ... They’ve got their Fitbit and their this and that and the other thing that tracks every move under the sun,” she says. “But I think there’s opportunity to put greater functionality, [and we are] continuing to monitor usage on it and see what the greatest value is.”

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey. This story appears in the Oct. 19-Nov. 15, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on the business of health. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).

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