May 10 2019

How Technology Is Transforming Care for New and Expectant Mothers

Wireless devices and telehealth tools are key to helping healthcare organizations improve maternity care efforts.

To paraphrase a popular saying, when mom’s happy, everybody’s happy.

That holds true for obstetrics service lines at hospitals and health systems too. Women have a choice when it comes to prenatal care and delivery and will often research those options, including relying on word-of-mouth referrals. As for downstream revenue, women make most of the health decisions for their families, and are typically more engaged in their own healthcare decisions as well.

Bottom line: Patient experience is important to women, and patient-centric programs that offer greater convenience, lower costs, and top-notch patient safety and quality are a powerful marketing tool.

Healthcare organizations, to that end, increasingly are turning to digital tools to improve the patient experience for expectant mothers.

Wireless Solutions Keep Patients Connected

Ochsner Health System, a nonprofit based in southeastern Louisiana, for instance, offers a free digital health tool called Connected Maternity Online Monitoring (Connected MOM) to help expectant mothers manage their pregnancy with fewer visits to the obstetrician. Patients use advanced wireless technology — including scales and blood pressure cuffs that connect to their smartphone — to send weight and BP readings directly to their medical record, where a team of health coaches and obstetrics care providers monitor the data.

“Connected MOM is an opportunity to extend prenatal care beyond the physician’s office and make care more convenient for our patients,” says Dr. Jody Morris IV, chairman of women’s services at Ochsner Baptist, in a press release. “Issues such as high blood pressure or excessive weight gain can be identified earlier, not just when a woman shows up for her routine prenatal appointment. We can identify patient trends, which can improve quality of care, reduce cost and enhance the patient experience.”

The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation launched a similar program in 2011 called OB Nest for women experiencing low-risk pregnancies. Now a standard care option at Mayo’s Rochester, Minn., clinic, it offers home monitoring equipment that connects to a knowledge-based tracking system that pulls health information into a single, accessible location.

“Women still receive all the recommended laboratory tests, ultrasounds, immunizations, and patient education of a traditional care path,” write Dr. Yvonne Butler Tobah, an obstetrician and health sciences researcher at Mayo, and Abimbola Famuyide, chair of Mayo’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, in a Harvard Business Review article. “However, by optimizing current technology, OB Nest makes women active participants in their care and the wellness experience of pregnancy, while reducing the associated costs and time commitment,” they wrote.

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Learn how telehealth programs can evolve to meet patient needs.

Telehealth Enables Remote Monitoring of Women and Infants

Telehealth services play an important role in caring for women and infants during and after delivery as well.

Ochsner telehealth services include pediatric intensive care and maternal fetal medicine. And the organization’s Telestork program, launched in 2016, provides remote monitoring of labor and delivery patients at most of Ochsner’s hospitals. The program has monitored over 1,200 patients and has reduced neonatal intensive care unit and cesarean section rates, according to a HIMSS paper on the system’s Stage 7–earning achievements.

Post-delivery, webcams that allow parents to monitor newborns in NICU when they can’t be there in person are an increasingly popular option — they’re in place at OHS as well as at Cleveland Clinic.

Parents get a unique username and password that they use to log in and watch their baby on any internet-capable device, including computers, tablets and smartphones, notes MedCity News. Parents can also choose to share their NicView system login with friends and family.

Technology, of course, is changing the way hospitals treat all patients: Videoconferencing tools such as Skype, combined with wearables like Fitbits, are laying the foundation for virtual care to revolutionize all aspects of the health space, says Mariea Snell, an assistant professor and coordinator of the Online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Maryville University in St. Louis, and a telehealth clinician at Maven Clinic, a “digital clinic” that connects women to vetted healthcare practitioners.

Every patient will eventually have a treatment plan that includes telehealth in some fashion, Snell predicts, whether through remote visits with a primary care provider or more extensive, long-term care. “As insurance companies trend toward reimbursing more telehealth treatment options, telehealth will only continue to grow more widespread and beneficial, helping increase the overall health and well-being of urban and rural communities alike,” she writes for HealthTech. “The future of healthcare is inseparable from telehealth.”

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