Telehealth use has been trending upward years before COVID-19 but, in 2020, the technology finally broke through the mainstream.
When hospitals were inundated with patients who caught the contagious and deadly virus, people had to use the technology to meet with their doctors and get a symptom checked. While there have been challenges such as internet connection and lack of private space at home, so far, the introduction of telehealth to populations around the world has been a success.
It is so successful that many people will continue using telehealth platforms even after the pandemic. As of April 2020, telehealth utilization was 78 percent higher than in February of the same year. About 40 percent of patients surveyed by McKinsey & Company said that they would utilize telehealth in the future.
Telehealth will not replace in-person visits. The technology has limitations, too. However, there is one group of patients for whom it has been a blessing: new moms.
Routine Checkup for Pregnant Women
The vast majority of pregnancies (around 92 to 94 percent) are considered low-risk, which means that there are no complications present that might endanger the lives of the mother or the baby. However, even with no significant complications, expecting women still need to see their doctor regularly for exams and checkups.
The schedule depends on the doctor’s preference. Typically, the patient will have to go to the doctor at least once a month. Nearer to the delivery date, the patient will have to see their doctor more frequently to ensure that everything is in order before the big day arrives.
Telehealth can be a replacement for visits that do not require thorough assessments. For example, if the patient is experiencing unpleasant symptoms associated with pregnancy, they can consult their doctor virtually.
But, even for women with high-risk pregnancies, telehealth can provide benefits. Women with high-risk pregnancies need rest. Staying at home for non-emergency meetings with their obstetrician-gynecologist guarantees that they do not overexert themselves.
More importantly, patients can talk to their OB-GYN more frequently over video calls. Increased engagement allows the physician to assess the situation, order more tests if needed, and intervene before the complication worsens.
Other services involved in a visit to the doctor are provided electronically. The doctor, for example, can send prescriptions digitally to the patient. An OB-GYN can tap a billing company to take care of the financial side of the meeting. This way, medical professionals can meet as many patients as possible and provide them with quality care.
Helpline for New Moms
Having a baby is a joy and a challenge. New parents have to take care of a fragile human who depends on them for survival — all while they are exhausted and sleep-deprived.
There is a lot of anxiety from taking care of a baby, especially among new parents. It helps to know that doctors and healthcare services are readily available.
One survey found that most moms (almost 65 percent of respondents) believe that telehealth is more convenient than bringing their children to the doctor’s office for a checkup. Around seven out of 10 moms reported that they often have to spend at least two hours throughout a busy day to give their children medical attention.
In most cases, visits to the doctor’s offices are non-emergencies. Telemedicine is quick. Patients no longer have to travel far to go to a doctor’s office and wait in a lobby for several minutes to seek medical attention. The technology ensures that there will be no time wasted.
About 80 percent of moms said they wanted to learn more about telemedicine and how they could utilize it to manage non-emergency medical concerns.
Postpartum Mental Health Care
Telehealth was most popular among patients who wanted to improve their mental health during the pandemic. Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed in the early months of 2020, 54 percent used the technology for behavioral health concerns. Only 43 percent utilized telehealth for a doctor to check an existing physical health condition.
For new moms, telehealth is convenient because they do not have to leave the house. They can continue watching over and taking care of their baby while speaking to a mental health professional.
Up to 75 percent of all new mothers suffer from a minor condition dubbed the “baby blues.” Most will recover independently, but as many as 15 percent will develop a more serious and lasting depression postpartum.
Those who have postpartum depression experience symptoms such as extreme mood swings, guilt and anxiety, fatigue, and inability to care for the baby.
Whether the new mom is going through baby blues or has postpartum depression, speaking to a mental health professional over a telemedicine platform will help. They can receive therapy or any kind of treatment appropriate for their condition virtually.
Telehealth is an advantage for many patients and, because of the pandemic, they have experienced the convenience and ease offered by the technology. Mothers, especially, reap the benefits of telehealth because they can get quicker and more frequent access to a medical professional.