So let’s for a minute set aside that we’re biased because Blake Uretsky is a Cornell student. And, let’s also set aside the notion that this innovation that she’s created itself is going to be a huge success. The likelihood of that happening is the same as the likelihood of it not snowing in Ithaca during a calendar year. In other words, while it could happen, it is the highest of high degrees of unlikelihood that this particular iteration goes on to achieve great heights in the pantheon of wearables. But in creating tech enabled maternity clothes, and winning a $30,000 Geoffrey Beene scholarship for design and entrepreneurship, Ms. Uretsky (Go Big Red!) has brought to life the conversation not whether, but when and how technology, particularly sensors (worn, injected/ingested, or in the environment, interacting with cloud computing and artificial intelligence, will produce innovations in maternal health, and how can those innovations create business value.
If I were advising Ms. Uretsky (and no, she hasn’t asked my opinion), I would tell her this: There is a tremendous opportunity to create commercial value far beyond the garment and far beyond the functionality that the garment she designed has today, essentially heart rate, blood pressure, breathing. You see, maternity, although it is a very low profit area within healthcare, is like a trojan horse for both payors and providers. Annually, there are about 4.5m births. For providers, maternal health is a huge issue. On the obvious side of things, touch points with the mother equals touch points with the family to be. Think of it as lead generation for generations! On the cost side, the opportunity is substantial. The cost of premature births and fetal deaths alone are staggering. So ensuring that expectant mothers are eating right, exercising right, and if needed, taking medications, that their environments are as stressless as possible, is a huge priority for providers and payors, who take on a lot of the risk whether those 4.5m come from the low resourced portion of the population (Medicaid = about 50%) or private insurance market. Net net, companies that can provide touch points with expectant mothers, gather data, and provide the touch points for intervention before the high cost problems arise, are in a hugely strategic position vis-a-vis payors and providers.
As Ron Popeil would say, “And wait…there’s more”….While some might consider this an issue of maternal health, maternal health solutions, or those where a product or product line in conjunction with smartphone apps, can gain touch points (I know, I like those two words together) with mothers, it goes far beyond mothers. Remember, these are expectant mothers. And they then give birth. And absent intervention in higher risk situations, or absent interventions in conditions that could be prevented, the effect on the system in having to then care for the children with those conditions is also part of the cost equation. In other words, both payors and providers will gladly pay top dollar for solutions that will lower the total cost of care (to the mother, and the infant) and the exposure risk to both. And therein lies the opportunity for Ms. Uretsky, or any other company in this space. Solve the pain of the providers and the insurance companies by showing you can lower the total cost of care, and you have a massive business opportunity in healthcare.