Fetal Monitor Eyed to Enhance Healthcare in Bhutan; Team of Officials Visits Iwate Prefecture Hospital

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An obstetrician and other officials from Bhutan listen to an explanation about the iCTG fetal monitor at the Iwate Prefectural Ninohe Hospital in Ninohe, Iwate Prefecture.

NINOHE, Iwate — A group of officials from Bhutan, including obstetricians, visited a hospital in Iwate Prefecture to deepen their understanding of remote medical care for perinatal women.

Members of the group learned about the use, management and maintenance of the iCTG portable fetal monitor employed by the hospital. The visitors aim to improve healthcare for mothers and their babies in Bhutan, where the iCTG device is also being used.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An iCTG fetal monitor enables remote medical care on a pregnant woman.

Government technical officials were also among the seven people who visited the Iwate Prefectural Ninohe Hospital in Ninohe on Feb. 15. They were there as part of a technological cooperation project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to enhance maternal-child health services through the development of remote healthcare systems.

Members of the group asked a number of questions while looking at small, heart-shaped iCTG devices at the hospital’s obstetrics-gynecology and pediatric ward. “Do you need special training to use these devices?” and “How do you maintain them?” they asked.

Hospital director Toshihiro Ogasawara is familiar with remote medical care for pregnant women. The main purpose of the group’s visit was to see how the iCTG is used by the hospital.

The iCTG was developed by Melody International Ltd., a company based in Kagawa Prefecture. An ultrasound transducer is placed on the abdomen of a pregnant woman and data such as fetal heart rate and uterine conditions are transmitted to a doctor.

The device allows doctors to remotely monitor the condition of pregnant women and is used in remote islands and other places in Japan. It was introduced in Bhutan in the autumn of 2020, and about 80 units are believed to be currently in use.

The group took a tour of the hospital, after which they were briefed by doctors, nurses and other officials about how they use the iCTG. For example, the hospital mainly uses it while pregnant women are being transported, so that real-time information on their condition will be provided for doctors at the hospitals that receive them.

“We could learn a lot from them. We want to reduce our country’s maternal and infant mortality rates,” one member of the visiting team said.

“I understand the monitoring system using iCTG is so reliable that Japan’s maternal and infant mortality rates are low. Using the device during transportation is good. However, internet access will be an issue for us because Bhutan is a country of mountains and valleys,” said Sonam Gyamtsho, the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at a hospital in the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu.

Melody International President Yuko Ogata accompanied the tour. “There are only 15 obstetricians in Bhutan and the country’s maternal and infant mortality rates are higher than those of Japan,” Ogata said. “I would like them to use the device in order to ease the worries of pregnant women.”