Pregnancy isn’t an illness, but prenatal care in the U.S. typically involves 12 to 14 appointments during the 40-week term. Hopefully, these visits simply confirm that the mother and fetus are healthy. For low-risk expectant mothers, however, some of these appointments may be unnecessary, researchers say; the costs and inconvenience incurred—such as lost wages or child care—are not insignificant. At Mayo Clinic, a prenatal telemedicine program is easing the burden on low-risk mothers-to-be and their obstetric providers.
OB Nest is designed to transform prenatal care from a medicalized model to an innovative wellness model. Now offered as a standard care option for women with low-risk pregnancies at Mayo Clinic, the program reduces the number of in-person visits to just eight. So far, mothers and extended families have expressed satisfaction with the prenatal care experience, and obstetricians appreciate having their time and resources freed up to focus more attention on women with higher-risk pregnancies.
The program is comprised of:
- An electronic medical record (EMR) system that was customized for pregnancy
- Home-monitoring equipment that observe the fetal heart rate and mother’s blood pressure
- An online social community specifically for OB Nest that is moderated by nurses
- Dedicated registered nurses who provide patient care, patient education, and support
Participating expectant mothers understand that the care they receive in OB Nest meets the care standards set by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and that they can always see their doctor sooner than scheduled if they feel the need. The enthusiasm for the home monitoring and dedicated nurses seem to alleviate any concerns over having fewer office visits overall.
As part of OB Nest, women still receive all the same recommended ultrasounds, laboratory tests, immunizations, and patient education as they would in a traditional care path. Prenatal telemedicine simply offers another option; it empowers women to become an active participant in their care, reduces costs and time commitments, and brings pregnancy back into the realm of “wellness.”