Fresh off of attending the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine 2023 Annual Pregnancy Meeting Conference in San Francisco, Babyscripts CEO Anish Sebastian shares his key takeaways, including why it’s important for innovators to be there.

SMFM is typically a very scientific conference. There’s usually a lot of high-level, highly technical conversation about “bench science” — think laboratory studies and experimentation and FDA-approval. But this year’s conference struck a different tone. 

While there was quite a bit of science at this year’s conference, there were also panels and sessions that delved into discussions about current technologies that are already at play in the field, and their value for addressing near term issues, including non-clinical risks such as social determinants of health. 

The titles and topics of panels reflected this, titles such as: “Finding the Sweet Spot: Updates in Diabetes During Pregnancy presented jointly with the American Diabetes Association,” “MFM, the EMR, and You: How to Use Computers to Improve Patient Care and Your Workflow,” and “Increasing Access to Postpartum Depression Prevention: Adapting the Mothers & Babies Program to a Novel Smartphone App.”

In the panel that I participated in, the conversation centered on the ways in which OBs and MFMs can and should be interacting with vendors, everything from identifying the right kinds of partners to the ins-and-outs of contracts and NDAs. 

As innovations are maturing and proving themselves, clinicians are clearing a space at the table for innovators. They’re actively pursuing collaborative partnerships with vendors to bring meaningful change to outdated processes, with discussions around modifying studies that will map onto the timeline of tech progress without compromising efficacy or clinical value. Some attendees speculated that this pursuit could improve physician morale by involving them in developments that will amplify their reach in the near term, and reduce burnout by creating operational efficiencies.

That’s not to say that the whole conference revolved around proximate technologies. There was a lot of discussion around AI and its potential, with most affirming its inevitable role in medicine. Though there were a few voices who perceive this as a threat, the general perspective on AI is optimistic for the ways in which it can extend the physician’s impact and allow them to allocate time and resources away from administrative tasks. 

SMFM is not your typical tech conference. There’s no one touting shiny new solutions that may or may not accomplish what they’ve set out to do. The booths are not as snazzy and the receptions are not as elaborate. It’s for that very reason that this conference is critical for innovators, because the people in these rooms are the ones who set the standards. They have the expertise to discern the value of a solution — they know the kind of data that constitutes meaningful progress and they make the decisions on care protocol and care redesign. 

It is their task to drive the field forward in ways that are safe for patients, and innovators need to measure value against their standards. Without the buy-in of the clinicians in spaces like this, a solution needs to reevaluate its claims and value proposition. 

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