Patients and providers felt that prenatal care via telemedicine was safer, more accessible, and cost-effective during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey found.
Three-quarters of patients stated that they felt safer using telehealth for their obstetrics care during the pandemic, with 18% responding that they would have forgone care if telehealth wasn’t available, reported Karampreet Kaur, a medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
More than 95% of healthcare providers also felt that providing prenatal care via telemedicine was safer than in-clinic for themselves, their patients, and their peers, she noted during a presentation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) virtual meeting.
“From our survey study, we found that overall both obstetrical patients and providers believe telehealth was a safe modality that improved access to obstetrics care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kaur said. “A majority believe that telehealth options should be considered for delivery of prenatal care independent of COVID-19.”
The survey results showed that telemedicine allowed patients to save money on transit and childcare, as well as reduce their missed wages. Future studies should include a more comprehensive cost analysis, to further understand savings associated with telehealth for both obstetrics patients and hospitals, she added.
Kaur’s group collected self-administered survey data from obstetrics patients and providers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They included clinicians, advanced practice providers, genetic counselors, social workers, and registered dietitians. The researchers received responses from patients from June 2020 to April 2021, but only collected answers from providers during the summer of 2020. All patients included in the survey had at least one prenatal appointment via telehealth.
The researchers obtained survey data from 167 patients, more than half of whom were ages 25 to 34. Around 70 providers responded to the survey, the majority being MDs or DOs.
Of all patients who responded to the survey, 44% last saw a generalist, 28% saw a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, 26% saw a genetics counselor, and just 1% saw a social worker. Approximately 84% of all telemedicine visits were conducted at home, while the remaining 16% were conducted at a clinic, most frequently after an in-person ultrasound appointment.
Around 75% of patients agreed that telehealth reduced their travel time, and almost half saved at least $35 in transportation, childcare, and missed wages. The researchers found that 95% of patients were satisfied with their telehealth obstetrics care, and 96% thought that the state of Tennessee should develop a permanent telehealth obstetrics program.
In their analysis of provider responses, Kaur’s group concluded that 94% of providers thought telehealth was an acceptable way to provide obstetrics services, 85% said that telehealth allowed for high-quality communication with their patients, and 96% agreed that telehealth improved patients’ access to obstetrics healthcare.
Nearly all providers who responded to the survey said that they’d be willing to use telehealth for obstetrics care outside of the pandemic, and that the Vanderbilt telehealth system was positive for the state of Tennessee.
Kaur acknowledged that this study was limited by both non-response bias and sampling bias. As the survey was administered electronically to patients on smartphones or computers, patients without access to these technologies may not have been able to respond.
Kaur and co-authors reported no disclosures.