Life after the Great Hatch: Flutter, Personalized Fetal Monitoring System

At the Great Hatch 2018, we saw the formation of several life-saving innovations in just 24 hours. For many of these passionate inventors, that weekend was just the beginning. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring three of the groups that have continued to work on their projects.

This week we caught up with Flutter, winner of the Faculty of Medicine Catalyst Award.

How was your experience at the event last year?

The Great Hatch was a fantastic experience for so many reasons. We all entered the weekend with open minds and we were ready to take on whatever was about to come our way, and we feel so lucky to have found ourselves on the same team. Flutter represented the fields of medicine, electrical engineering, computer engineering, integrated engineering, engineering physics, and UX design, and amongst all of us we represented three institutions based in both Vancouver and Toronto. Over the course of the weekend, we were able to apply our diverse experiences and skill sets to create a user-centric, interdisciplinary solution.

Overall, everyone we encountered and the solutions that were brought forth at The Great Hatch were so impressive. It was truly eye-opening to see what people from many different disciplines can create in such a short amount of time. We are so grateful to the Hatching Health team, and all of the organizations and people involved for serving as the springboard to these solutions. It’s so important to encourage innovation and creative thinking when tackling current healthcare issues, and so it was a great privilege for all of us to be involved.

Tell us a bit about your project. How did your group come up with the problem and your objectives?

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One of our team members learned of the importance of monitoring fetal activity by kick counting during her obstetrics and gynecology unit in medical school. She recognized the subjective, primitive, and time-consuming methods of kick counting, despite it being the most prevalent and critical screening method for fetal compromise. Additionally, current methods are not tailored to individual mothers’ lifestyles, activities, or pre-existing health conditions that may influence these readings. This can lead to heightened anxiety or delayed reports.

Flutter is a personalized fetal monitoring system that offers reassurance, education, and objective medical counselling during a woman’s pregnancy. Our primary objectives were to improve fetal outcomes, alleviate maternal anxiety, and reduce unnecessary healthcare visits. We have created a non-invasive, wearable technology paired with a smartphone application that can autonomously track fetal movements for women during the third trimester of their pregnancy.

What do you find meaningful about your project and its goals?

Taking into consideration the evolving lifestyles of mothers today, Flutter especially benefits anxious first-time mothers, mothers of higher risk due to increasing maternal age, and those who are career-oriented and/or live busy lifestyles. Additionally, the educational component provides reassurance and preliminary medical counselling to those without immediate access to a health care provider, mitigating the need for difficult travel to see their physician for inconsequential concerns.

Additionally, collecting long-term baseline data on fetal activity may have a role in informing guidelines that will lead to optimal methods of diagnosis, evaluation, and management of decreased fetal movements.

We recognize that pregnancy can be a very scary and anxiety-inducing time for mothers. However, the experience of closeness between a mother and her baby is a special experience Flutter could have a very meaningful impact by facilitating a positive pregnancy experience and empowering mothers to take charge of their baby’s wellbeing.

What role did The Great Hatch have in developing your project?

It goes without saying that without The Great Hatch, we wouldn’t exist. The event’s role was critical in serving as a catalyst for realizing a valuable solution to what started as a simple idea. The resources available to us felt endless, and the input from mentors was critical. We were able to meet many individuals who continue to serve as mentors to this day, and engaging with those who already have a handle on innovation and medical device development is crucial to navigate some of the challenges and opportunities that arise.

What is the status of your project now and what do you see for the future?

With the funding we received through Hatching Health and a subsequent “Get Seeded” pitch competition by RBC (https://www.amsehub.ca/tools/rbc-get-seeded), we have begun to engage in discussions with current and previously pregnant women to determine their interest, needs, and preferences for a device like ours. Flutter has used initial feedback from our target audience to improve our device and its usability, and we will continue to do so throughout our development process.

We also went on to participate in the Medical Device Development Centre (MDDC)’s Awards for Excellence in Biomedical Engineering Student Design & Innovation event in April 2018. We arrived with a new and improved working prototype founded from our initial research, and we were awarded with the top prize at the event (http://mddc.org/awards/previous-winners/). We are currently using funds from these events to seed and validate our prototype while seeking continuous feedback from our end users.

Is there any advice you would like to share with future participants?

Be open, and don’t be afraid to pitch! The team member who pitched our idea did so at the absolute last minute because she was unsure of whether it would be of importance or interest to those at the event. Had she not gone up right at the end, none of this would have happened - and that would have been a real shame! And most of all, pursue a project that resonates with you, because this is so much more than a hackathon. Think beyond the scope of this event, because your ideas can very well become a reality and change people’s lives.