By Eric Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence | September 12, 2019
A telehealth program for new mothers is showing success in helping caregivers identify those with high blood pressure, a key factor in the nation’s maternal mortality rate.
Developed by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Magee-Women’s Research Institute (MWRI), the remote patient monitoring platform for newly discharged moms demonstrated “high compliance, retention, and patient satisfaction,” according to a study recently published in the journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
“We’re meeting women where they are instead of saying they have to come to the hospital for all these blood pressure checks when they have a new baby,” Alisse Hauspurg, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Pitt and the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “I think this is supported by recent ACOG recommendations and is an opportunity to improve care for high-risk women.”
The study, conducted in 2018 with some 500 patients diagnosed with preeclampsia, eclampsia or chronic, gestational or postpartum hypertension, applies connected health to a growing and serious health concern: maternal mortality. Due to the high mortality rate in the US, ACOG recently increased the recommended frequency of postpartum checkups to start after three weeks, aiming to get new mothers in front of their doctors as soon and as often as possible after giving birth.
While roughly two-thirds of new mothers diagnosed with a hypertensive disorder see their doctor for a follow-up appointment within six months, many others aren’t getting that care, either because they can’t get to a doctor’s office or clinic or aren’t compelled to make that trip.
A telehealth program that connects those mothers with their doctors via virtual care can improve access and boost that percentage. This particular program identified patients through the electronic medical record platform, then sent participants home with an mHealth-enabled blood pressure cuff and instructions on how to take their blood pressure at home.
After taking blood pressure and heart rate readings once a day for five days, the telehealth platform either recognizes that the patients is doing fine and cancels a scheduled one-week follow-up trip to the doctor’s office, or it identifies abnormal readings and alerts the patient’s care provider.
For 57 percent of those participating in the study, that alert was sent, and a new care management plan was developed.
According to Hauspurg and her colleagues, 83 percent of the participants in the study continued to take readings through three months after the baby’s birth, and roughly three-quarters continued to at least the fourth week.
The study also proved that a simple platform can be effective in improving clinical monitoring and outcomes. This, in turn, allows for growth, and the ability to treat more patients.
“One of the big advantages here is scalability,” Hyagriv Simhan, MD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Pitt, executive vice chair of obstetrical services at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital and the study’s senior author, said in the press release. “Connecting women in their ‘fourth trimester’ to online care allows us to engage a larger number of patients over a larger geography with the infrastructure and workforce we already have.”