The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#36 - Ergonomics for Caregivers

A Breast Milk “Bartending” App for Preemies

Premature baby (Courtesy of Alex Warden)

Keriton’s milk management platform helps nurses be nurses, moms be moms—and preemies be safely fed breast milk.

 

More than 300,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the European Union, according to Eurostat. And about 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States is considered a preterm baby, according to the CDC. Exclusive feeding with maternal milk is highly recommended for these newborns. But for these preemies hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units—or NICUs—while their mothers are sent back home, the feeding process is highly complex and subject to very strict hygiene conditions.

Mothers pump and send their milk to the hospital. Nurses feed it fresh to the newborns, or they pasteurize it, they can also freeze and store it. Some bottles have to be thawed before use, others combined and split, or have vitamins added for fortification.

For nurses, this makes breast milk “bartending” highly time-consuming, and extremely manual. As for mothers, who usually undergo a highly traumatic situation, pumping their milk can be yet another stressful experience.

That is, until Keriton came in.

Keriton founder Vidur Bhatnagar (Courtesy of Technically Philly)

Its CEO, Vidur Bhatnagar, took part in the 2016 PennApps hackathon. A couple of nurses from an intensive care nursery came over to ask for an app that would track mothers’ pumping supply. If this supply went down, lactation consultants would be able to intervene faster.

The request instantly clicked with Bhatnagar: “My sister had a preemie son, so I could personally relate to it,” he explained. During the hackathon he and his team sat in the NICU night and day to observe the feeding process. The automation of the milk tracking process that they proposed won them the hackathon’s second price.

Thirty days later Keriton was born. Keriton Kare has now been conducted for about fourteen months. The platform consists in two connected apps, Kare Mom and Kare Nurse, both available on smartphones.

A Fast-Tracked Process

“Our secret source is a pre-printed barcoded label for a particular mother,” Bhatnagar explained. At home, the mother pumps, labels her bottles and enters how much and when she pumped into her Kare Mom app. This data is synced with a secured server, so in the hospital the data is immediately available to nurses by scanning the labels. “It used to take five times as long to check in the bottles,” Bhatnagar said.

“We have taken down the time of intervention from three to five days to three to five minutes.”

The Kare Nurse app has every single step of inventory management, from expiration tracking to sending the nurses notifications or showing them graphs. Expiration of breast milk was brought down by 50 percent. The system takes care of all the manual checks and flags errors at each step. “That’s how we help nurses be nurses,” Bhatnagar said.

In the Keriton Kare system, mothers are actively involved in caring for their babies. Nurses are also more efficient in supporting them. With the app’s real-time graphs they directly spot mothers who have trouble pumping and communicate with them through the platform’s chat function. “These are millennial moms, you call them nobody picks up, you text them they reply back after three minutes,” Bhatnagar said. “We have taken down the time of intervention from three to five days to three to five minutes,” he added.

Preemies in the NICU (Courtesy of Krista Gantt)

Finally, there is an in-built photo function allowing nurses to share pictures of the babies. It also stimulates the mothers’ pumping. “We proved that with a photo of their baby they pump 72 ml more milk,” the young entrepreneur explained. A key achievement for him: “Breastmilk is liquid gold for babies,” he said.

The Keriton platform is also streamlining the process for donors’ milk and for formula feeding. The independent donor app also traces a donor’s journey by providing details of the approval data needed to donate milk.

Bhatnagar has big plans for Keriton. They have just started expanding their geographic reach, especially to Europe, and hope to go global with these products. The apps are coded to be language customizable. They are currently available in English and Spanish.  All are HIPAA-compliant.


About the Author

Hermine Donceel is a Brussels-based freelance journalist. She has lived in Southeast Asia for ten years, and has covered public health and environment, nutrition and climate change.

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