How technology is changing maternity care
What a time to be in health care. With the rise of personalised care, home monitoring and telehealth, specifically, during the pandemic, we are witnessing a transformation in the way doctors and nurses interact with and care for patients.
By bringing greater efficiency and convenience to the doctor–patient relationship, this new standard is allowing the medical community to redesign current models of care. This, in turn, is creating opportunities for medical technology companies like ours to provide innovative solutions for delivering on that vision.
Consumers, for their part, have shown they’re on board and expect telehealth services to remain post-pandemic. Like the disruption we’ve seen in media, hotels and taxis, the next generation of general practitioners, specialists and hospitals will need to meet this expectation to remain sustainable. The slogan of this new model of care is: ‘The patient will see you now’. But I'd like to offer an extension of it as, ‘Health in the palm of your hand’.
Of course some fields evolve more easily compared to others. Take maternity care, for example.
The average number of hospital or in-clinic visits for a low-risk pregnancy is about 14, and can be as high as 40 in high-risk pregnancies, creating a significant burden for both pregnant people and their caregivers. The challenge is even greater for people living in remote areas or who aren’t able to easily access care. Telehealth hasn’t been a viable solution for any of that during the pandemic because of the nature of maternity care.
A key measure for determining a baby’s wellbeing in utero is its heartrate. Previously, the only way you could do that was at hospital with a professional cardiotocography (CGT) machine. The importance of monitoring foetal heartrate has meant that during COVID-19 pregnant people have still had to take the risk and have face-to-face appointments while the rest of the country is increasingly embracing home monitoring and telehealth services.
However with our technology this is changing. In August Ramsay Health Care Group, commenced a paid pilot with HeraMED to send expectant parents home with a smart, handheld device that can monitor their baby’s heartrate with the same level of precision as the professional hospital machines, and then share the data seamlessly, in real time with their doctor or midwife.
The HeraBEAT device is specifically aimed at home users, enabling them to measure the vitals of their baby. Additionally, our digital pregnancy management platform enables a wide variety of additional important medical measurements, including their own blood pressure, weight, mood, activity, sleep, glucose level and more. The accompanying professional cloud and dashboard includes a smart alerts system that enables the doctor or midwife to control which measurements and thresholds will trigger an automatic alert according to the specific condition and status of the pregnant person. And it includes an extensive telehealth capability that enables the doctor or midwife to safely communicate with the person they are caring for via encrypted chat, audio or video.
The pilot is being conducted at Joondalup Health Campus, one of WA’s largest hospitals and a maternity care service provider to an average of 3000 expectant people annually, and follows a successful clinical study of the technology, published in US scientific journal, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, also known as The Green Journal.
I anticipate the pilot will be the last step in preparing the device and platform for a broader roll-out within the Joondalup hospital and beyond. We recently announced positive interim results of a similar commercial pilot underway with Obstetrix Medical Group, one of the largest clinical services providers specialising in women’s and children’s care in the US. The interim results show positive adherence levels and feedback from both expectant participants and clinicians.
We’ve seen that coupling telehealth with tech innovation can lead to better outcomes for patients. In the case of pregnancy, it can potentially:
- Enable early detection of pregnancy complications and the potential for better pregnancy outcomes, reduce hospitalisation days, and lower c section rates.
- Optimise the treatment of high-risk pregnancies and potentially save lives.
- Save costs through remote monitoring compared to in-clinic visits and prevent unnecessary face-to-face visits for both doctor and patient.
The rise of telehealth during COVID-19 has opened opportunities for technology innovators to evolve current models of medical care. Many say it has facilitated a ‘quantum leap’, making possible today a wide technology adoption that was previously estimated to stretch along the next decade. In the case of maternity care, we are on the cusp of seeing a dramatic transformation that has the potential to deliver significant positive outcomes and cost effectiveness for both the pregnant person and their hospital.
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