As advanced as healthcare is today, maternal health remains a problem in the USA. In 2020 there were 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The death rates for women over 40 are significantly higher than in younger cohorts and significantly higher for non-Hispanic, black women than for other ethnic groups.
Can Telehealth Prenatal Care Improve Maternal Health?
The US Department of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) recognizes telehealth prenatal care as a “life-saving resource and the first line of defense for potential pregnancy complications.” The HHS prenatal care guidelines suggest that telehealth strategies can help underserved and rural patients and bridge cultural and language barriers through increased choices.
A review of telehealth strategies for prenatal care was recently published by Amy Canor and colleagues in the Annals of Internal Medicine’s Telehealth Strategies for the Delivery of Maternal Health. Motivated by the increased uptake of prenatal care and postpartum telehealth services over the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers wanted to discover just how effective different telehealth strategies were for pregnant women and new moms.
The team first reviewed records from popular databases in the discipline of biomedicine that is used for conducting reviews like MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, Embase, and Scopus for English-language studies from January 2015 to April 2022. They used a combination of 28 randomized controlled trials and 14 observational studies on a population of 44,894 women. They found that replacing or supplementing in-person visits with telehealth visits results in similar and sometimes better clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. The effect on access to care, health equity, and harm is unclear.
The telehealth strategies proved very effective for managing diabetes and mental health during pregnancy. Some women reported better or equal mental health outcomes with the combined telehealth strategies for prenatal and postpartum care than with in-person visits. The outcome was similar to telehealth prenatal care used for low-risk pregnancies. Patient satisfaction was reportedly higher than in-person care.
Telehealth Strategies Paving Way for Postpartum Telehealth Services
The review of telehealth strategies suggests that prenatal care could ensure better healthcare for pregnant mothers, especially those in marginalized communities. Postpartum telehealth services could also help treat mental health problems following birth. See TBHI’s previous article on women’s preferences for telehealth below.
Basic Telehealth Clinical Best Practices
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