Clinical Review

Feasibility—and safety—of reducing the traditional 14 prenatal visits to 8 or 10

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Approach #3: Prisma Health utilizes mobile app technology

A third approach to reducing unnecessary visits for routine maternity care is to employ mobile app technology. Technology companies have developed app platforms for providers to use to educate and connect with patients; such apps reduce the number of routine obstetric office visits while maintaining patient satisfaction.

One group’s app experience. In a pilot study at a Prisma Health practice (South Carolina), 100 patients were placed on a reduced appointment schedule of 9 prenatal visits; the women self-monitored their weight gain and blood pressure using a remote monitoring system via an app called Babyscripts.7 Patient feedback was collected, with 45 of 100 patients responding.

Ninety-five percent of patients were satisfied with the mobile app, 94% reported positivity around pregnancy readiness, 90% were satisfied with their health care team, and 89% were happy with remote monitoring. Patients visited the app 3 times per week on average, and the top categories of interest were travel, exercise, genetics, and eating right.

One patient using the Babyscripts mobile health app and schedule optimization platform commented, “I am on my second pregnancy and wish this had been available for the first! The app is easy to use and I love seeing my weight on a graph. And I very much like the quality of the cuff” (personal data generated from Babyscripts).

In with the new

As clinicians strive to provide more patient-centered care, offering expectant families more than one way to receive their prenatal care is appropriate. Beyond the traditional 14-visit care model, we should offer use of novel options like mobile health apps, which improve the patient experience while decreasing the cost of care by reducing unnecessary visits.12 Note also that reducing visits for low-risk mothers opens space in the provider schedule for patients who need services more quickly.

Benefits for postpartum care. Traditionally, clinicians see the low-risk patient for a single follow-up appointment at 6 weeks postpartum. However, the World Health Organization recommends evaluating women at 3 days, 1 to 2 weeks, and 6 weeks postpartum.13 Further, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance recommends screening all women for resolution of postpartum blues at 10 to 14 days.14

ACOG also has made recommendations on optimizing postpartum care. In a committee opinion, ACOG recommends that all women have contact with their provider within the first 3 weeks postpartum.15 Recognizing that such an in-person visit may be difficult, ACOG has endorsed communication via text messaging, app-based support, and remote monitoring.15 An app such as Babyscripts would fill this need conveniently for both patient and provider.

In 2019, patients want choice. As maternity care providers, we should be open to considering novel, evidence-based options that may provide more cost-effective obstetric care.

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