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Fetal monitor wants to improve healthcare in Bhutan; A team of officials visits the Iwate Prefecture hospital


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

NINOHE, Iwate – A group of officials from Bhutan, including midwives, 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 used in the hospital. The visitors want to improve healthcare for mothers and their babies in Bhutan, where the iCTG device is also used.


JIF iwate2
The Yomiuri Shimbun
An iCTG fetal monitor enables remote medical care for a pregnant woman.

Government technical officials were also among the seven people who visited Iwate Prefectural Ninohe Hospital in Ninohe on February 15. They were there as part of a Japan International Cooperation Agency technology collaboration project to improve maternal and child health care through the development of remote health care systems.

Members of the group asked a series of questions while looking at small, heart-shaped iCTG machines in the hospital’s obstetrics-gynecology and pediatrics department. “Do you need any 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 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 a pregnant woman’s abdomen and data such as the fetus’s heart rate and the condition of the uterus are sent to a doctor.

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

The group was given a tour of the hospital, after which they were informed about the use of the iCTG by doctors, nurses and other officials. For example, the hospital mainly uses it during the transport of pregnant women, so that real-time information about their condition is provided to the doctors in the hospitals that receive them.

“We could learn a lot from them. We want to reduce maternal and child mortality in our country,” said a member of the visiting team.

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

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

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