For the expectant mother, pregnancy should be a time of excitement and peaceful preparation. In the United States most obstetric practices require a minimum of a dozen (and frequently more) in-person office visits. This taxing demand on soon-to-be new parents can be mitigated through the utilization of telehealth. Can the application of telehealth help women have healthier pregnancies, while maintaining a high quality of care without compromising positive outcomes and feelings of support?
Telehealth for the Low Risk Pregnant Woman
Women with low-risk pregnancies are a great example of a population that can benefit from telehealth. A low-risk pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy where there is neither a need for nor a benefit from medical intervention. In other words, both the mother and her baby are healthy and there is no reason to believe that there will be serious complications during labor and delivery.
High risk pregnancies are characterized by an increased likelihood of complication. There are various factors that can increase the risk associated with pregnancy, including high blood pressure (causing preeclampsia), multiple births (such as twins), gestational diabetes, or an age over 40.
In the United States, over 85% of pregnant woman are considered low risk. For these women, telehealth can be used to augment traditional care. Telehealth interventions can also replace some in-person appointments that primarily exist to confirm that both the mother and her baby are healthy (a conclusion that can often be reached at home). With telehealth, pregnant women can decrease the amount of in-person doctor’s visits during the prenatal period, while still maintaining good quality of care and patient satisfaction.
With telehealth, a pregnant woman is able to monitor her weight and track both her blood pressure and fetal heart rate in the comfort of her own home. If a patient experiences abnormal or confusing results, she simply reaches out to her clinician. This allows for a constant stream of communication between patient and provider throughout the prenatal period and limits unnecessary utilization of costly medical resources, such as obstetric providers, clinic time, and nursing support.
There is research to support that telemedicine is a good option for pregnant women. A study out of the Mayo Clinic evaluated the efficacy of self-monitoring (weight, fundal height, blood pressure, fetal heart rate), text-based communication between care team and patient, and an online community (a forum moderated by a nurse where cohorts of pregnant women could consult with one another and their providers). The study found many benefits of the telemedicine model, including:
- Increased sense of control and reassurance
- Lower cost of care
- Increased access for high-acuity patients
- Supportive partnerships between care team and pregnant woman
- Increased patient satisfaction
- Increased patient engagement and continuity of care
- Less time away from work
- Facilities savings
- Increased provider engagement and satisfaction
The study concluded that telehealth aided in anticipating the needs of patients and provided access to care in a way that better accommodates the lives of patients.
Related: Healthcare Solutions