During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, ensuring the more vulnerable pregnant population has access to necessary prenatal care has been a conundrum. It has also made many obstetric care providers re-think the prenatal office visit schedule and turn to no-contact visits such as telehealth, where a patient meets with their provider virtually. Not only is it useful during a pandemic, it could also be used to ensure rural patients have access to prenatal care.
Pregnant women can attest to the abundance of prenatal appointments they attend over the course of a pregnancy. Adding to the stress, during the pandemic many practices do not allow for partners or children to attend prenatal visits. Some offices turned to telehealth to help relieve the need for patients to risk constant in-person appointments.
A study conducted in the first 6 months of the pandemic in New York City looked at provider satisfaction with telehealth, along with obstacles involved with implementing the switch. Researcher Madden and colleagues surveyed various providers within the Columbia University healthcare system and found many benefits along with some drawbacks to the telehealth system. “Providers noted that patient benefits of telehealth included decreased COVID-19 exposure, that patients could continue to access care in the setting of stay-at-home instructions, and there were telehealth benefits for patients with increased childcare responsibilities (Madden et al, 2020).”
On the flipside, using telehealth also assumes a patient has access to internet and technology required for the visit, as well as the ability to navigate the system. Specifically with prenatal visits, home monitoring devices would be needed to actually recreate the diagnostics available in an OB-GYN office, such as a doppler, blood pressure monitor, and ultrasound. Some of these devices are not feasible to be used effectively in a home without extensive training. There is also an insurance issue, as telehealth coverage may not be accessible with all insurance providers.
The study ultimately found that “rapid transition to telehealth for prenatal care was feasible and associated with provider satisfaction in this study (Madden et al, 2020).” While new technology can be overwhelming, it is increasingly important that patients have access to prenatal care in whatever form possible.
If you have questions your prenatal care or childbirth, contact our Memphis birth injury law office today at 888-443-4387