Telemedicine is doing wonders for rural women with high risk pregnancies. It might even help reduce infant mortality rates.
In some Tennessee counties, infant mortality rates are as high as they are in many third world countries. How can that be in a place like the United States, known for some of the most prestigious hospitals and healthcare providers in the world?
One reason is the high prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes. Another is profound poverty. There’s also the fact that women with high risk pregnancies have trouble accessing quality specialty care in rural areas. A specialist might be two hours away, and if a patient doesn’t have the gas money, or the child care, or the time off of work to get there, she’ll miss an appointment—and the chance to spot problems before they worsen.
The state’s largest health insurer decided it had a responsibility to address the issue. Thanks to their funding, Dr. David Adair, an obstetrics specialist in Chattanooga, and his colleagues see rural patients through a major telemedicine network for rural women. Thanks to the live video, Adair can observe and respond to his patients’ body language - something that can be even more telling than a lab result or a sonogram image sent to patient’s electronic health record.