New care option offers pregnant patients a mix of in-person and video visits.
Alexia Rostow learned she was pregnant in late spring 2021, just as cases of COVID-19 were surging due to the delta variant.
Concerned about getting infected, she avoided crowds and indoor public places. But there was one public place she figured she wouldn’t be able to avoid: the Kaiser Permanente Mt. Talbert Medical Office in Clackamas, Oregon, where she was receiving prenatal care from ob-gyn Emily West, MD.
Then Dr. West invited Rostow to join a pilot program that would allow her to attend some of her maternity appointments as video visits. To support those visits, Rostow would receive a home health toolkit to help track her essentials for a healthy pregnancy: weight gain, blood pressure, and the baby’s heartbeat.
She quickly signed on.
“Not having to come in for frequent checkups in the COVID era was a big positive,” she said.
A project manager at an engineering firm, Rostow also appreciated the flexibility of video visits. “It meant I didn’t need to rearrange work all that often. On some days, I would go home to do my video visit. But if that wasn’t convenient, I would find an empty conference room.”
Members across Kaiser Permanente will soon have access to this care option, created to make it easy, convenient, and affordable to attend maternity appointments.
“Typically, if patients come in for appointments, it’s going to take at least an hour out of their day,” explained Dr. West. “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.”
“By removing barriers such as the need to take time off from work, arrange child care, or find transportation, this option helps members attend more of their prenatal and postpartum appointments,” she added. “That’s essential for a healthy pregnancy.”
During an office visit early in the pregnancy, the clinician talks about needs and preferences with the member, 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 the member’s electronic health record.
“The tools were easy to use,” said Rostow. “On the day of an appointment, I would take all of my vitals in the morning and send them in.”
Members who choose this 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.
Six months after giving birth, Rostow is happy with her maternity experience and loves being Abigail’s mom.
“I never thought I would be a mom. It took my husband a few years to convince me, but I’m glad he did. It’s been super challenging and super rewarding at the same time.”
Talk to your clinician if you are pregnant and want to learn more about whether this program is right for you.
Learn more about maternity care at Kaiser Permanente.