Can you imagine the opportunity to receive some of your prenatal care without leaving your home? The stress of pregnancy is certainly exacerbated by the eight to fourteen recommended prenatal visits, particularly if the woman has full-time work, lives far from the clinician, has other children at home, or lives in a part of the country with weather or other factors than makes it difficult to drive safely.
Published data show that these visits are safe, with the same outcomes as women who had traditional prenatal care visits. Patient satisfaction is high, particularly among women for which the pregnancy is not her first.
The University of Utah has been offering this opportunity to healthy women with low-risk pregnancies for many years. Pregnant women are required to upload blood pressure, weight, and fetal doppler data into their electronic medical record within 48 hours of each prenatal visit, whether the visit will be in person or virtual. At the virtual prenatal visit, the clinician reviews the results and answer questions just as he/she would do if you were seen in person.
Some other organizations offering virtual prenatal care include:
- Henry Ford Health System (Detroit MI)
- Bloomin’ Babies Birth Center (Grand Junction CO)
- Multicare (Washington State)
- UW Medicine (Seattle WA)
- Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Mankato MN; Eau Claire, La Crosse, Menomonie WI)
Virtual prenatal visits are offered specifically to those whose pregnancy is NOT considered high risk, although telemedicine can be used for these women as well. Factors considered high risk for pregnancy include (but are certainly not limited to):
- More than one baby expected
- Woman with existing health conditions (e.g., hypertension, diabetes mellitus, HIV-positive)
- Young or old maternal age.
In general, the first prenatal care visit is done in person, followed by up to one half of the remaining visits done virtually until 36 weeks of pregnancy. Virtual care may be provided by video, or simply by telephone depending on state and/or payer requirements and regulations.
The process by which patient data are acquired and reported to clinicians varies across organizations. Some organizations provide/lend the devices to patients at no cost. Others have patients buy the devices of their choosing. The devices used in healthcare for the remote monitoring of a wide variety of vital signs has grown dramatically over the past decade, including many FDA-approved devices (e.g., fetal heart rate monitors). While the University of Utah has women manually enter their vital signs, it is also possible to use devices that automatically upload the data into one’s EMR.
For example, fetal doppler devices, the device measuring fetal heart rate, are available for purchase. Costs range from less than $50 to more than $600. Options to consider:
- Audio only, audio and video
- How early in pregnancy heart beats detected
- Response time
- Degree of radiation
SO MANY BENEFITS!
DECREASE POTENTIAL FOR COVID CONTACT!
PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT with reduced driving!
- Moms feel a lot more interaction takes place and are more involved in their obstetrical care.
- More involvement of partner and other children.
(Let THEM use the fetal Doppler/find baby’s heartbeat!)