This Cleveland Startup Could Save Millions of Lives Among Babies and Mothers


RiskLD aims to improve poor perinatal mortality rates in the United States

Despite being one of the most wealthy and developed places in the world, the United States has a problem you may not expect: the country has a major problem with mortality rates related to pregnant women and their children. It’s not a new problem, and it’s one that’s getting worse in comparison to other countries. But Cleveland startup riskLD has set out to address that problem, and they’re tackling it through the use of cutting-edge software.

“We are a software application that integrates with electronic medical records to provide a combination of early warning and clinical decision support at the point of care for labor and delivery,” said CEO Steve Porter. “The whole mission of our company is to improve prenatal outcomes by alerting caregivers earlier to some of the leading drivers of morbidity for moms and babies.”

For many, the idea of these issues plaguing a nation as wealthy as the United States is shocking. But Porter said the numbers paint a bleak picture of the way the nation lags behind the rest of the world.

“It is really shocking; when people aren’t operating in this space they’re really disarmed and troubled to learn about these statistics,” he said. “But the facts are the facts: we have the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation, and it’s a problem that’s getting worse every year compared to our peer nations. And 60 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths are actually preventable. Beyond that, there are profound disparities in maternal health outcomes. For instance, women of color in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die during the course of a pregnancy.”

Facing such a massive problem on a large scale, where do you start? For Porter and riskLD, the answer was extensive research, a process that taught the startup the main repeating issues that cause most of the unnecessary deaths. To address those problems, riskLD is specifically designed to be proactive, paying attention when humans may not be able to.

“Almost any adverse outcome for a mom or baby can be traced back to two sources of error on a labor and delivery unit,” Porter said. “The first is what we call a lack of situational awareness — which means the clinical team wasn’t aware of the problem until it was too late — and the second is failing to manage a critical patient issue once it’s been identified. At the risk of oversimplifying the problem, when we look at adverse outcomes in obstetrics, it’s either the team didn’t know about the problem or didn’t manage it correctly.”

RiskLD believes software is the way to solve those problems. Software solutions touch nearly every aspect of our lives in 2021. They improve our communication, make financial transactions easier and even bring us dinner. But not many can boast the potential to save millions of lives. For Porter and the riskLD team, that’s what makes their project so important and also so overdue. For one reason or another, perinatal care has lagged behind most other industries despite being one of the most important things humans do.

“What’s missing is technology and how we deploy technology to mitigate these errors,” Porter said. “We see more sophisticated technologies in basic manufacturing plants than we see in our labor and delivery units across this country. Why are we relying on antiquated technology for this all-important moment of someone’s life? That’s the role we want to play: being at the forefront of advocacy for access to cutting-edge technology in this critical moment.”

RiskLD’s important and groundbreaking mission is understandably drawing interest from across the country. The software is a featured app on Epic Systems’ App Orchard, an application store for healthcare systems across the country, and is launching two pilot programs this summer in New Jersey and San Francisco, with more on the way. The startup is also involved in legislation aimed at improving perinatal health outcomes like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, which is being discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives. And with the potential for fast growth on the horizon, Porter said northeast Ohio has served as an ideal base of operations.

“Our costs are very low; the cost of living in northeast Ohio is not what it is on the coast, but there’s also access to great software talent in the area,” said Porter. “We’re very well positioned in northeast Ohio with three amazing hospital systems, Case Reserve University and everything we need to develop this kind of technology. And there are similar models in Columbus and Cincinnati and other cities as well. So I think this is a great area of focus for the entire state.

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