Pregnancy can be a joyful time. When my wife and I prepared for the birth of our daughter three years ago, it was wonderful, but it was also stressful – so many appointments to keep, milestones to track, so much critically important information to remember. Even with a great family support network and financial security, it was challenging to stay on top of it all. When my team and I at SELA Canada had the opportunity to build an app to help young, homeless, pregnant women have healthier pregnancies and babies, I jumped at it. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to think about a doctor’s appointment when you’re not sure where you’re going to sleep that night. And I couldn’t think of a better way to put our team’s technical know-how and Microsoft’s platforms to use.
 
The project began when we attended the Hacking Health event here in Toronto, Canada last November. Two social workers from St. Michael’s Hospital pitched a project: they were providing young, pregnant women with “My Baby and Me,” a paper “passport” the women would use to record appointments, test results, milestones and contact information for health services providers. But the patients – many of whom were homeless or had uncertain housing situations – frequently lost or forgot to bring their passports with them. Since most of their target audience had smartphones, the social workers were hoping a tech team could build a digital version.
 
As soon as we heard their pitch, my team wanted to build it. We quickly realized not only is this a life-changing technology for a vulnerable population, it’s a way to create an ongoing relationship between the young mothers and their health-care providers – and that benefits everyone. Our app extended what the paper passport could do: the women could find services near them, thanks to the GPS; they could track their pregnancy with a countdown clock to their due date; and they could keep ahead of upcoming dates and appointments with reminders. Since our app was offered in 2013, it’s been downloaded thousands of times, and for us, every download feels like a gift.
 
We chose to build the app for the Windows Phone because we know how quickly stable apps can be built on the Windows platform. In fact, ours was the only team at the event to have a complete, fully functional app, not just a prototype, built within the 48 hours of the event. At SELA, we’re heavy consumers of Microsoft Azure because there’s no learning curve. It’s responsive and easy to use, and the functionality just gets better and better. And of course, the adaptability of the platform means we can update the app as needed, and we were able to provide St. Michael’s with an administrative portal where they can upload new content.
 
Without even knowing it, we’ve become a health solution provider company. Because of the My Baby and Me Passport app, we’ve been approached to work with other health care organizations on similar projects. We’re helping develop an ultrasound app, and we’re working on an app for physicians that includes an EKG reader and patient charts. Our customers and we trust the security Microsoft Azure provides, so we’re taking our apps to the next level and moving to the cloud.
 
The paper passport the hospital developed was already saving lives and resulting in healthier pregnancies and babies; the app we built extended its reach and resources. Because the app is on Microsoft Azure, we can continue to develop and scale. The My Baby and Me Passport app has helped us add to our offerings, build a game-changing new revenue stream and win awards and accolades. All of that is nice, but in the end, it was important to us to put our skills to good use. My daughter was born safe and healthy, and if I can help other parents celebrate healthy babies, then I’ve done a good day’s work.