Telehealth interventions are associated with improved obstetric outcomes, according to a review published from physician-researchers at the George Washington University.
The article, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, presents a systematic review of studies on telehealth interventions that report health outcomes in selected areas in low-risk obstetrics, family planning, and gynecologic conditions.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT
In recent years, healthcare has seen an increase in patient use of supportive technologies, such as mobile phone apps, wearable devices, short message service or text messaging, multimedia messaging services, and live-audio visual communication.
In 2014, there were nearly 2,000 obstetric mobile phone apps available. But the development of evidence-based practices for those technologies lags behind the use of the technology by patients and providers.
Establishing such practices holds the potential to mitigate health risks and costs linked to the rapid adoption of new technologies that haven't yet been studied, the authors said. It could also help to mitigate barriers of adoption of beneficial technological advances.
Through the team's review of the primary literature, a couple of themes emerged supporting telehealth interventions in obstetrics and gynecology. One was that text messaging may be helpful for reinforcing certain health behaviors, such as smoking cessation during pregnancy, consistency in breastfeeding and adherence to contraception.
The second theme was the role of remote monitoring and virtual visits in settings where there are barriers to facility-based care.
The authors suggest that more evidence is needed to help clinicians determine how they can integrate telehealth into practice in ways that clearly improve patient care.
THE LARGER TREND
Telehealth has been gaining traction among patients, particularly those who have grown up with technology. As the model becomes more legitimate in the eyes of providers and consumers, it becomes more widespread, and could help to mitigate the effects of physician shortages that have had an especially hard impact on rural areas.
As telehealth takes center stage, though, there emerges the need for laws, regulations and industry practices that ensure its feasibility from a reimbursement, procedure and clinical care perspective. That's what has made the past couple of years so interesting: A framework is starting to emerge, and while it's not fully mature, it's no longer the nascent healthcare delivery approach it once was.
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