Maternal Health Advocates Welcome Virtual Care

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The Public Health Emergency has led to a massive, but temporary, expansion in telehealth care - something OBGYNs are welcoming.

My last in-person prenatal visit was March 16. Only symptomatic patients were wearing masks and we were all getting used to eyeballing a 6 foot distance. 

Since then, I’ve taken my own vitals and had two visits over Zoom.

So my doctor sent me this blood pressure cuff – and once a week I take my blood pressure at home and I enter it into an app on my phone along with my weight.

It’s all to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

But, maternal health advocates are hoping that telehealth care remains an option long after the pandemic is over.

Dr. Rao said “we have kind of been forced to switch over to providing as much care as we possibly can virtually. And in some ways, that has been a blessing in disguise.”

Dr. Rao says around 70 percent of the Mary’s Center OBGYN visits are now virtual.

The switch has expanded access to the clinic’s many low-resource and uninsured patients- who have a hard time taking off work, arranging childcare or even getting to the clinic.

Dr. Rao said “Even though the clinic may only be within a few miles of their house, it could still take over one or two hours for them to get from one place to the other.”

At Mary’s Center, and across the country, telehealth is more than a check-in over Zoom. It also includes remote monitoring – which can be especially helpful for patients with diabetes and hypertension.

Dr. Rao said, “Many of our patients have been able to obtain some basic medical supplies including a thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, a scale.” 

Elite Evans says her virtual postpartum care with Mary’s Center saved her life.

About a week after giving birth to her son Khyza in March, Evans’ doctor gave her a call.

Evans said, “I couldn’t go into the office so, you know, she called me. I was like, ‘I just need to rest. I’m gonna go back to sleep.’ And she’s like, ‘are your eyes blurry?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, but I’m tired.’ She’s like ‘Check your pressure, check your pressure, I need you to check your pressure.’ I ended up having postpartum preeclampsia and I almost died. If she hadn’t stayed on me and hadn’t kept calling and hadn’t kept texting, you know, I could have died with a newborn.”

For the past several decades, maternal mortality and morbidity rates have been trending in the wrong direction. Advocates say regular access to care is a big factor.

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