NIH Developing Data Access Tool for Maternal Health

The National Institute of Health is developing a new tool to help make data on maternal health readily accessible, part of a supplement technology to the broader electronic health record adoption. 

Federal researchers are designing MaternalHealthLink to be able to share, retrieve and store health data for expectant mothers. The project is a collaboration between the NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Nahida Chakhtoura, a medical officer with the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch at the NIH, said that the goal of the MaternalHealthLink is to develop a tool that will be publicly available. 

“What we're trying to do is develop a guide that looks at maternal health care in a sort of longitudinal fashion,”

says Chakhtoura.

“So that's the basis for developing the guide, and…the Maternal Health Link is a sort of an easier way for researchers to implement and be able to use the guide.”

MaternalHealthLink is set to function as an addendum to the federal electronic health records software’s mission to improve health data access. The project is slated to be designed in accordance with the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources guidelines, which are a set of standards for software developers regarding health care data tools. 

“Here, what we're trying to do is just get improved data for pregnancy, and pregnancy conditions and infants,” she said. 

Sociologist Juanita Chinn, also with the NIH, said that MaternalHealthLink will help better frame women’s health histories and allow researchers to gauge potential risk factors for adverse maternal events with historical data. This has a myriad of uses both for researchers and clinicians. 

“For example, in creating that history, if a woman is unable to tell someone that she's postpartum, when she shows up to an emergency department, being able to link the data will provide that information,”

Chinn said.

“So if you have to retrieve data from one system or from another system, you can create a health history of someone so you don't just get a snapshot in time of their current health status, but you understand their health over a specific period of the life course. And that really helps you understand the factors that increase someone's risk for adverse maternal health outcomes.”