Healthcare providers save costs through better remote prenatal care
Global maternal health has improved drastically in the past decade, with maternal death numbers down significantly in most parts of the world. The surprising exception to this overall positive trend has been the United States.
In the U.S. maternal morbidity has risen significantly during the same period, especially compared to other industrialized and high-income countries. The primary causes are a lack of routine pregnancy care, racial and socioeconomic barriers, losses of rural hospitals/healthcare facilities, and transportation time/cost.
Telemedicine offers a way to overcome many of these challenging obstacles. With remote prenatal care, women and babies have better access to frequent and high-quality healthcare that supports maternal and newborn health.
This is also an opportunity for healthcare providers to save costs and ease the financial burden on the healthcare system. Keeping a high-risk obstetric patient in the hospital is among the most expensive healthcare costs.
Telehealth Brings Savings and Benefits for Pregnancy Care
Ample research shows that the healthiest newborns are those whose mothers received proper healthcare throughout their pregnancies. This includes receiving routine prenatal checkups that help educate and support pregnant mothers.
Telemedicine offers numerous opportunities to help women have healthier pregnancies. Examples of remote prenatal care and obstetric care include:
- Prenatal care visits
- Remote Patient Monitoring, including blood pressure, weight, and heart rate monitoring
- Genetic counseling
- Mental healthcare
- Postpartum visits
- Lactation consultations
To understand the impact of telemedicine on the average pregnancy, consider the issue of traveling to doctors’ appointments. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the average pregnancy involves at least 14 prenatal and postpartum visits.
If a pregnant woman lives in a rural area with poor access to healthcare providers, this factor alone gives her a 9% greater chance of severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Telemedicine gives her an option that not only saves her time but could save her life.
The cost savings are also substantial for the provider. The NIH reports $361 in cost savings per patient through the use of telehealth. Annual savings could be more than $13,000 per patient, which represents a significant reduction in healthcare system costs.
Important Prenatal Applications for Telemedicine
Although the vast majority of prenatal and postpartum care in the U.S. currently happens in person, it doesn’t have to. Much of this care could be improved through thoughtfully-managed remote patient care.
Telehealth is now revolutionizing prenatal care while helping expectant mothers feel less stressed and more supported. An overview of telemedicine solutions by a group of obstetric researchers found key takeaways like:
- Video conferencing can replace some prenatal in-person visits.
- Telemedicine enables conversations with remotely-located specialists.
- Access to lactation consultants during breastfeeding is better with telehealth.
- Throughout the entire prenatal and postpartum period, telehealth improves access to mental healthcare.
Certain specific tasks that come with prenatal care and maternal self-care are especially well-suited for telemedicine. These tasks are difficult to accomplish during a short in-person appointment and are better facilitated through ongoing telehealth interactions. Examples include:
- Tasks of self-monitoring, like taking one’s weight and reporting it to the doctor.
- Tasks of communication, like texting an important update about a new symptom.
- Tasks of approval/notification, like sending information for insurance approval.
- Tasks of community interaction, like joining an online forum moderated by an obstetrician.
Plus, telehealth helps babies survive and thrive in the crucial postpartum period. This effect is particularly noticeable in families that encounter unexpected newborn health issues shortly after birth.
In a Virginia hospital, families with newborns who were recently discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit participated in a telehealth program that provided at-home iPads, weight scales, and other equipment used to monitor their babies and communicate with the hospital. Families that participated in the program reported significantly better newborn health outcomes than those who weren’t in the program.
Containing Provider Costs Through Telemedicine
Healthcare industry research shows a wide variation in costs for maternity care. While low-risk childbirth usually comes with fairly predictable costs, a complex or high-risk pregnancy can quickly bring extreme expenses. Anything providers can do to keep pregnant mothers healthy and out of the hospital is a win-win for patients and providers.
It’s also important to acknowledge that in the U.S., between 40% and 50% of all births are financed by the federal government through Medicaid coverage. Among other things, this means that streamlining prenatal care is a smart cost-saving measure that puts financial resources to good use.
The federal government supports the use of telehealth as a measure to expand Medicaid access and reimbursement. Although there is no federal Medicaid statute specifically addressing telemedicine as a distinct service, Medicaid.gov clarifies its stance on the issue by stating, “Telemedicine is viewed as a cost-effective alternative to the more traditional face-to-face way of providing medical care.”
Minimizing Expenses With Remote Prenatal Care
As you can see, there are clear benefits of using telemedicine for prenatal care and postpartum support. It nourishes healthier babies, supports mothers, spends taxpayer dollars wisely, and ensures healthcare organizations run more efficiently.
AMC Health is at the forefront of this revolution in prenatal and postpartum healthcare. Our services include innovative solutions that facilitate virtual pregnancy care, remote monitoring, and postpartum care options that empower mothers and families. We’re improving U.S. healthcare while maximizing healthcare resource management.
Please schedule an AMC Health demo to learn more about telemedicine for remote prenatal care.