By Dan Matthews, Writer, Content Consultant, and Researcher
Rapidly evolving healthcare technology has the potential to improve the patient experience and close the care gap between urban and rural patients. These advancements have been funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, most recently in the form of a $9 million grant to launch the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program (RMOMS) and advance obstetrics care in rural communities.
The initiatives like those being led by RMOMS help hospitals break new ground in reproductive care and promise more equitable, high-quality healthcare in the future. These advancements can also be used to improve mental health, fertility treatments, and prenatal and postpartum care.
A patient’s mental health fluctuates greatly during pregnancy. Regardless of gender, people experience stress during every step of pregnancy. Changes in hormonal balances can result in perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD) before, during, and up to a year after pregnancy. This is alarming yet entirely normal, as 1 in 7 women develops symptoms of PMAD.
Improvements in technology can help foster better mental health before, during, and after pregnancy. Pregnant mothers may be unable to visit in-person doctors’ offices, but virtual options now exist that can put therapists in touch with struggling pregnant women and new moms.
Clinical psychologist, Eynav Accortt, says that remote treatment could help women feel better “start to feel better within a month or two of weekly psychotherapy sessions.” Accortt recommends that perinatal women who find that “anxiety, depression or panic start to interfere with their ability to function” should speak to a therapist or OB-GYN to receive help. Digital reproductive care could facilitate these types of appointments more easily, regardless of location or unwillingness to go to a physical office.
Wearable technology used to be reserved for sci-fi sets and video games. But now, doctors and OB-GYNs can use wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve digital reproductive care.
Wearable technology that supports the IoT may even be instrumental in future infertility treatments. Digital fertility solutions can support self-management and give physicians the data they need to help folks navigate their fertility journey. More consistent, close monitoring can help people stay on track with their treatment, even when they experience setbacks or disappointments.
Wearable technology can also improve in-person care. Cleanrooms are vital for IVF treatment success, and wearable tech may help. Cleanroom operators can use wearable technology to thwart contamination through better monitoring and maintenance of an optimum environment. Wearable technology is laden with the potential to improve the sanitary nature of reproductive care, as wearers receive 3D feedback to ensure that no mistakes are made during the cleaning process.
Wearable technology can give providers access to the data during every stage of pregnancy. However, data alone isn’t enough to provide quality care. Fortunately, remote technology and changes in the legislature are augmenting traditional OB-GYN care.
Patients who live in remote areas or lead busy lives can connect with OB-GYNs remotely. Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, an OB-GYN and chair of telehealth at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, explains that this kind of care offers “a way for doctors and patients to connect between visits or when in-office care isn’t possible.”
Of course, not all treatments can be conducted remotely. Obstetrics usually requires doctors to take measurements and vital recordings that aren’t yet possible with remote tech. Postnatal care can also be supported by remote OB-GYNs. Remote checkups are useful for new parents who may be struggling to keep up with busy schedules and may not have the time to visit a physical doctor’s office.
Innovations in digital reproductive care are closing the healthcare gap between urban and rural areas. Patients and parents can get the help they need without ever setting foot in a doctor’s office, as wearable technology collects vital data and remote monitoring gives doctors the insights they need. Digital reproductive care can also improve the quality of care patients receive while at the hospital, as the IoT creates more efficient and safe healthcare environments.