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DOC TALK: Your questions – answered: Maternity care from the comfort of home

Technology brings new care options that can offer pregnant patients a mix of in-person and video visits.

Presented by Kaiser Permanente September 29, 2022

Emily West, MD, at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon

Virtual care is here to stay. And Kaiser Permanente is now using this technology to deliver safe, expert maternity care for patients from the comfort of their own home.

“It’s exciting we are able to use the latest technology to provide the best at-home care and support people’s need for a happy, healthy pregnancy,” says ob-gyn Emily West, MD, at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. West explains how people who are pregnant can now use an at-home maternity toolkit to get the best maternity care — tailored to their personal needs.

Q: How do I know if this type of virtual care is right for me?

If you and your doctor determine that remote maternal monitoring is right for you, you take home a toolkit to monitor you and your baby’s health as the pregnancy progresses, with key in-person touchpoints with a physician. Parents-to-be also sometimes feel safer during pandemic times not needing to go into a medical office frequently for checkups.

Q: What are the benefits of a virtual, at-home maternity program?

By removing barriers such as the need to take time off from work, arrange childcare, or find transportation, this option helps members attend more of their prenatal and postpartum appointments. That’s essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Typically, if patients come in for appointments, it’s going to take at least an hour out of their day. But with virtual care, they can sign in, have their visit, and it just takes 15 or 20 minutes. Our members really appreciate the time savings.

Q: How does the virtual care program work? 

During an office visit early in the pregnancy, the clinician talks about needs and preferences with the patient, and they decide together if having some appointments as video visits is a good option. If so, a nurse teaches the member how to use the home health toolkit and what to do if they have concerns. 

The toolkit includes a fetal doppler to detect the baby’s heart rate, a blood pressure monitor, and a weight scale. The monitor and scale are Bluetooth-enabled and pair with a smartphone app that sends readings directly to a patient’s electronic health record.

If I choose a virtual pregnancy program, can I still see my doctor in person?

Patients who choose a virtual option are still seen in person at key moments in their pregnancy and for procedures such as lab work, vaccinations, and ultrasounds. They can request that a video visit be changed to an in-person appointment at any time — or decide they prefer to have all maternity appointments in person.

Whether you are coming into the office or talking with your clinician over video, your care team works with you to make sure your pregnancy care is tailored to your personal needs.

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