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CareStream - an app for expectant mothers with chronic illness.

CareStream bridges the communication gap between expectant mothers with chronic illnesses and healthcare providers.

Photo of Melissa Stegner

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In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

Expectant mothers with chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis need access to reliable and consistent information from all of their health care providers. To make this happen, their doctors need the most current data on their condition and the ability to communicate amongst themselves. CareStream would allow expectant mothers to record information about their condition, and send questions to their physicians and receive answers in a timely manner.

This app would 

Allow expectant mothers with a chronic illness to...

  • Gain evidence backed recommendations and insights based on their reported symptoms
  • Record illness symptoms, moods, and experiences with pregnancy
  • Send relevant data directly to their doctors (Primary care physician, rheumatologist, obstetrician-gynecologist, etc.) to 
    • (A) accompany relevant questions or 
    • (B) give a summary of their health status in advance of an in-person appointment

Allow health care providers treating mothers with a chronic illness to...

  • View historical data on symptom levels, medication dosage, and more
  • Encourage and allow communication with other health care providers to find the best treatment for the mother
  • Openly communicate about discrepancies between treatment suggestions leading to a healthier newborn and mother

Allow friends and family supporting mothers with a chronic illness to...

  • Be actively involved and aware of the treatment of the mother
  • Ask questions to health care providers in a discrete, safe environment
  • Have a better understanding of how to best support a mother with a chronic illness

Background on sources

Management of rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy: challenges and solutions, Megan L Krause and Ashima Makol, Open Access Rheumatol. 2016; 8: 23–36.

Big shout out to Kate Rushton for her informative posts on chronic illnesses, pregnancy, and health care providers Profiles: Kate Rushton


Laurie Proulx for being amazingly patient and helpful answering all my questions. 

Supporting individuals with illnesses BESIDES RA

Throughout the refinement phase, many people we talked to mentioned how this app would be useful for other chronic illnesses in addition to RA.  

Individuals planning to get pregnant, or who are currently pregnant with lupus, fibromyalgia, hemochromatosis have needs that overlap with individuals with RA.

This app would allow expectant mothers with chronic illnesses to...

  • Tailor the app's tracking option to their unique needs
  • Gain evidence backed recommendations and insights based on their reported symptoms
  • Share data with their health care providers 




Throughout the refinement phase, we spoke with several people from different areas of expertise. After learning more about RA and the healthcare industry, we decided to integrate the feedback and focus on creating a platform that allows mothers with rheumatoid arthritis to record their medication intake and track symptoms. This data can be shared with their treatment providers, leading to better-informed decisions and conversations between patients and their doctors during appointments.

Attached is a summary from some of the interviews.

Interview - Mother with RA

Interview - Innovation Consultant

Interview - OBGYN

Interview - Pharmacist

At what stage is your idea?

  • Back of the Napkin Sketch: I came up with this concept and would love support in making it come to life!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Create an interactive prototype of the app to test with different focus groups. Potential focus groups could be expectant mothers with chronic physical illnesses, medical professionals (obstetricians, primary care doctors, rheumatologists), expectant mothers with mental illnesses, therapists or psychiatrists specialized in treating postpartum depression.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

-Feedback on how to define business value for this idea -Marketing and outreach planning -Info. on other chronic illnesses that could benefit from CareStream

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a student at VCU with experience in UX design and entrepreneurship.

This idea emerged from...

  • An Individual
  • An organization or company

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • no

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • no

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no

How would you describe this idea (in 2-3 sentences) while in an elevator with someone?

CareStream is an app designed for expectant mothers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It bridges the communication gap between patients and their treatment providers by allowing women with RA to track their symptoms, medication dosages, and share that data with all their healthcare providers—OB-GYNs, rheumatologists, general practitioners, and others.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Reduce the amount of conflicting information women with chronic illnesses receive when they are pregnant or thinking about pregnancy.

How has your idea improved or evolved throughout the Refinement Phase?

Four brainstorming sessions, five interviews, three mentorship calls, and many post-its later our idea transformed from a back of the napkin sketch to a full-fledged working prototype! We definitely couldn't have done it without the support of everyone who has helped us. It's been an eye-opening experience to learn about the intricate health care system and hear the strength and struggles that women with chronic illness go through every day. Overview: The original app aimed to create an environment almost like a chat room where the patient could talk to all her healthcare providers at the same time. We realized, however, that this would be difficult for doctors to manage, and the likelihood of multiple doctors being available to talk at once would be infinitesimal. Based on feedback from women and doctors, we chose to refocus on improving communication through sharing tracking data instead of in-app, direct communication. One of the people we interviewed from the advisory panel was Cynthia Perazzo from AVIA Health. She highlighted two features that she believed would set our app apart from the rest—the focus on chronic conditions in conjunction with pregnancy and the availability of curated health content. While direct contact with the doctor will still be a feature of the app, we now place a greater emphasis on background information and smart recommendations and insights based on the patient’s reported symptoms. Contact with the doctor will now be reserved for only sending patients logs. The feedback we got on the connectivity feature was very positive. Shanaka, the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Sciences Director at our university, told us that there has been a growing movement in recent years towards team-based healthcare—especially with respect to treating chronic illnesses. Allowing the patient to share data with and contact all of their healthcare professionals from a single platform takes this approach and makes healthcare simpler

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We tested our prototype with two mothers who have RA. Moving forward we would like to perform more in-depth user testing with both patients and doctors to see if CareStream is helpful for preventing miscommunication, filling knowledge gaps and providing enough support for mothers with chronic illness.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

We plan to continue to develop the app and hopefully pitch it for initial funding.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

Several apps currently exist that allow patients to track various data and share it with their doctors. There are apps for pregnancy. There are even apps for RA. CareStream is the first that combines all three. The app would be able to track RA symptoms as well as fertility data or pregnancy progress. Allowing the patient to communicate with all her physicians is another feature that few, if any, apps include, and would help them give her better care.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Melissa Stegner Abie Kanu Cal Costic and Sarah Gibson 

The refinement phase closes on Nov 5 at 3:00pm PST. Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all.

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