Obstetric patients and clinicians both overwhelmingly reported that telehealth was a more powerful way to receive ob.gyn. Care and enhance healthcare access throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey at a single institution. The findings, from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., were presented at a poster at the 2021 virtual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“The COVID-19 pandemic caused rapid and broad expansion of tele-obstetrics, warranting the need to assess patient and provider experiences and opinions about these services,” Karampreet Kaur, a 4th-year MD candidate at Vanderbilt University, and colleagues wrote in the poster. The team’s findings led them to conclude that virtual options for prenatal care ought to be accessible independent of the pandemic.
Neel Shah, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, Boston, and founding director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Harvard’s Ariadne Labs, agreed that the study results supported continuation of telehealth even without COVID-19. Shah wasn’t involved with the research.
“The fact that telehealth is broadly acceptable is not surprising but the magnitudes are striking,” Shah said in a meeting. “Both providers and patients overwhelmingly see telehealth as a value-added fixture of obstetrical care that should be sustained beyond the pandemic.”
The investigators conducted an online survey of both obstetrical patients who obtained virtual prenatal care and ob.gyn. Department providers, including MDs, DOs, advanced practice providers, genetic counselors, social workers, and registered dietitians.
Just more than half (53%) of those 167 patients who completed the survey between June 2020 and April 2021 were between the ages 25 and 34. The rest of the patients comprised 13% between ages 18 and 24 and 35percent between ages 35 and 44. Most of these patients (84%) were in home due to their telehealth appointment, but 16% were at a clinic for the telehealth appointment.
A quarter of those patients had a telehealth see using a genetic counselor (26%) while 44percent of patients saw an ob generalist and 28% saw a maternal fetal medicine specialist. Only 1% reported a social worker visit.
The majority of patients (75percent ) reported that they felt personally safer with telehealth as opposed to an on-the-go trip, also 18% stated they would have forgone care when telehealth were not an option. Likewise, 74% of individuals stated the virtual care reduced their travel period, and 46% said they saved at least $35 in transport, child care, or missed wages. Over half the patients surveyed were satisfied with their telehealth expertise and believe Tennessee should possess a tele-obstetrics program.
“The fact that a significant number of patients would have forgone care, and that nearly all providers observed improvements in access, makes widespread adoption of telehealth a moral imperative,” Shah said. “Telehealth and other forms of virtual care require rethinking our standard care models,” he added. “Tr