NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, Calif., is adopting mobile technology to keep in touch with expectant parents throughout the pregnancy and during the first three years of a child’s life.

The organization has bought the SmarteXp software of UbiCare to deliver health education materials to parents’ smartphones or computers via email or text messages, after parents register at the facility’s website.

Messages are customized to coincide with milestones in a child’s development, including newborns, toddlers and older children up to three years of age. For example, if a child is four months old, parents will get a message that the child should be rolling over. If a child is 10 months old, a message might remind parents that the child should be walking to some degree by now.

Parents also will receive texted educational materials in English, Spanish and other languages for themselves, getting tips on breastfeeding, for example. The program is particularly aimed at reaching pregnant women who have limited or no health insurance.

“Staying connected to our patients after they deliver here and in their everyday lives extends our quality care outside the hospital and through the entire care approach,” says Sarah Jewel, director of business development at NorthBay.

The texting program was launched in early July. Impetus for the program came from clinicians at NorthBay who wanted a way to stay better connected with new parents when they went home.

Jewell started talking with UbiCare last spring, and hospital executives were impressed with the look and content of the product and shared it with clinicians who adopted it. Now, they are asking for a similar program covering immunizations, she says.

In essence, the texting program is a stripped-down version of the popular book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” except the content is at the parents’ fingerprints and digital, explains Kelly Rhoads-Poston, a spokeswoman at NorthBay. Other texts cover issues such as what to bring to the hospital when parents come to delivery and what to do when the baby won’t stop crying.

The text/email messages include links to a website that clinicians selected as meeting best practices. and the messages go out under a NorthBay label.

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In general, this project is not very difficult and other hospitals should easily be able to develop their own version, Jewel says. “We didn’t expect it to be this smooth.”

The project was smooth for everyone except the doctors, she quickly adds, who had the tough part. Staff organized and reviewed educational materials, but pediatricians were overwhelmed with how much content they had to view—673 pages.

Now with testing done, the landing page is on a web site and staff is rolling out the marketing plan, with the first live emails going out in mid-July. So far, a handful of patients have signed up.

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