OnQ Blog

Using 3G to detect at-risk pregnancies early and improve maternal health

Jul 21, 2014

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Every day around the world, 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, ninety-nine percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, particularly among women living in rural areas and poorer communities. Severe bleeding due to placenta complications is one of the leading reasons women die in childbirth, and the only way of detecting abnormal placenta challenges is with an ultrasound.

These statistics are unacceptable to me and I am proud to work for a company that’s committed to using its expertise and advanced wireless technologies to improve maternal health and save women’s lives. 

Through a Qualcomm Wireless Reach project called Mobile Ultrasound Patrol, midwives, nurses and general practitioners at health houses (small rural clinics) in three Moroccan villages were given portable ultrasound units, 3G-enabled smartphones, phablets, remote diagnostic software and 3G connectivity for use in the early detection and treatment of major causes of maternal mortality.

These tools allowed the local health workers to capture and wirelessly transmit ultrasound images with near-perfect clarity to specialists at hospital clinics in Casablanca and Fez, Morocco, and Paris, France. One of the impressive aspects of this project is how it enabled physicians located in different cities to quickly review the same data and collaborate on patient care. 

During our recent launch event in Rabat, Morocco, I had the privilege of announcing the Mobile Ultrasound Patrol project with Trice Imaging, our implementing partner. Several of the doctors and health officials who participated in the trial were also on hand to share their positive impressions of the project and their optimism that access to this technology can improve the state of maternal health in Morocco.

Among the trial project’s results:

  • Of 575 exams wirelessly transmitted to clinicians, 94 exposed potential at-risk pregnancies and 158 were flagged for a second opinion
  • The use of wireless technologies:

     – slashed delivery of medical data for review from four days to two seconds

     – cut diagnostic review or second opinion time from two weeks to less than a day

     – reduced ultrasound costs from US$80 to US$2 per patient

     – increased local health workers’ skills in delivering high-quality ultrasound images

  • The number of women giving birth in health houses increased after the trial, an important step in reducing the number of unassisted at-home births

I firmly believe in the power of mobile technology to improve lives, and in this case, particularly those of pregnant women. I had the opportunity to visit a rural clinic in Oulmes and meet some of the women benefitting from the project. It was exciting to see the impact of the technology firsthand and we need more projects like the Mobile Ultrasound Patrol replicated in global communities where pregnant women lack access to quality health care.


We’re very excited about this and my hope is that one day all women will have access to mobile health solutions that can facilitate safe pregnancies, consequently improving maternal health.

To learn more about the Wireless Reach initiative, please visit our website.

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Shawn Covell

Vice President, Government Affairs