Brynne Potter, Cofounder of Maternity Neighborhood Credit: Photo provided by Tom Tom Founders Festival

In September 2014, the Tom Tom Founders Festival launched the Founding Cville project which highlights local artists, civic leaders and entrepreneurs “whose groundbreaking and original work has impacted Charlottesville and the world.” Charlottesville Tomorrow is republishing the eighteen profiles of each of the inaugural Founders.

Brynne Potter, Cofounder of Maternity Neighborhood

A little over 5 years ago, Brynne Potter was a mid-wife with a thriving practice. She noticed every trip to the hospital for a pregnant woman was treated as an “emergency” because no collective data existed and the general health of the mother was unknown. Brynne developed an app to empower mothers to keep track of their own health records and share them with their doctors. In this process, Brynne entered the vanguard of those thinking about patient empowerment and data access. She recently spoke before the World Health Organization on her work fusing traditional medicine and modern technology. In developing an app which empowers women to better understand and manage their prenatal care, she is helping patients everywhere.

What is Maternity Neighborhood?

Maternity Neighborhood, Inc., is a digital health company that offers user-friendly apps and web-based tools for team-based maternity care. Founded in 2010, the company was born from a passion to improve maternity care. The company focuses on woman-centered solutions and targets providers, health systems, and health plans with a strong patient-centered ethic. Maternity Neighborhood is headquartered in Charlottesville and has operations in the U.S. and U.K.

How did it start? What was the inspiration?

I am a midwife. I believe that engaging women at the time of pregnancy is the one of the most important ways we can impact and improve society. When women are informed of their options and take ownership of their decisions in pregnancy, it can impact how they manage their health, and their child’s health, for a lifetime.

I started this company with two partners who both shared the vision and a desire to build something impactful. We started by creating something that supported my small midwifery practice in Charlottesville. It was a tool that allowed me to have access to my clients records from anywhere on any device. It also allowed me to share the record with my clients and gave them opportunities to contribute as well as have their own information about their pregnancy at their fingertips.

The tool (called Private Practice) took off and within months was the fasting growing and most popular electronic health record for midwives in the US.

What was the biggest setback?

Fast growth. Lots of opportunities, both in the US and the UK, have made it hard to stay focused and manage growth. We’ve gone from 4 to 15 employees in the last year and outgrown two offices.

When did you begin to suspect this could be a success?

When we won a Health 2.0 challenge and were invited to the Institute of Medicine Health Datapalooza in 2012 as one of the showcased top 50 HIT innovations. Not only were we the only maternity health app on stage, we were the only health tool built for women at all. It made me realize that we were doing some very important that could impact lots of people.

What has been the biggest positive impact you have observed?

Prior to using our tool, most midwives in the US did not share their (paper) notes with their clients. Unlike the UK, where all pregnant women carry their own (paper) notes, most patients in the US never see their own health record. As soon as we made it easy for midwives to share the record and allow women to fill out their own forms online, over 80 percent of practices turned on the sharing feature. That meant thousands of women instantly could go online and review their own tests and read the narratives after every prenatal visit. Imagine if we all carried our own lifetime of health records in our smartphones and that record started with our birth story? That is the vision for the future that we are creating.

Have you founded other businesses or initiatives?

I had a midwifery practice in Charlottesville for over 10 years, with a midwife partner who now works at Maternity Neighborhood.

How do you define Founding?

I really see Founding as a process of partnering with others. I could never have succeeded in this company without my partners, who shared the risk and the success with equal measure. Our shared vision is what made the company strong. The dynamic tension of multiple creative talents coming together to build a single concept into a multi-faceted entity that continues to attract talented people is what we “founded”.

What brought you to Charlottesville, and what keeps you here?

I came to Charlottesville in 1992 with my husband. We already had family here (my mother) and felt like Charlottesville was a great place to raise our family. Our two sons graduated from Charlottesville High School and the community is what will keep me here for a long time to come.

What’s next?

We are starting operations in the U.K. this fall and expanding our services to hospitals and payers. For me, that means a lot of travel and meeting lots of new colleagues and friends far and wide. It’s a fun ride! The company is continuing to grow, which means recruiting new talent and expanding our networks. Come by for a visit!

Founding Cville culminated in an award ceremony at Tom Tom’s Fall Block Party
with over 6,000 in attendance | Credit: Tom Daly Photography