COMMENTARY

Prenatal Care via Telehealth: Who Needs a Pandemic?

Andrew M. Kaunitz, MD

Disclosures

July 29, 2021

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has given a large boost to telehealth, we know little about using this modality to provide antenatal care.

In a recent article in The Lancet, investigators compared perinatal outcomes associated with pre-pandemic conventional care and those associated with telehealth-integrated care.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began, a large Australian health system that includes three maternity hospitals began to provide antenatal care for low- as well as high-risk pregnancies using telehealth.

During the telehealth months, all patients continued to have some face-to-face visits, with just under one half of antenatal services delivered in person. The great majority of telehealth visits were conducted using video calls.

Telehealth patients measured their blood pressure using automated monitors purchased by the health system.

Patients assessed fetal growth through self-measured symphyseal–fundal height beginning at 24 weeks of gestation. This approach has been found to yield similar measurements as assessment performed by clinicians.

The proportion of pregnancies found to have fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, macrosomia, or stillbirth was similar in the conventional and telehealth cohort births.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused telehealth care to be initiated in many settings worldwide. It is notable that among women receiving telehealth care in this Australian study, no cases of COVID-19 were identified.

Now that vaccination is reducing the incidence of COVID-19 in the United States, insurance companies may be reconsidering their coverage of telehealth medical services.

Nonetheless, I agree with the authors. Their findings do indeed indicate that even during non-pandemic times, telehealth has the potential to safely reduce the inconvenience and costs to pregnant women associated with conventional in-person antenatal care.

Thank you for the honor of your time. I am Andrew Kaunitz.

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