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Telemedicine has a silver lining for pregnant women during COVID-19

Published May 20, 2020
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Taking care of expectant mothers. For the Health of America.

Pregnant women are used to seeing their OBGYN in the office—often. They’re used to seeing images of their baby on a monitor and checking in on the health of their baby throughout their pregnancy. Now, only women who need specialized care or certain tests are coming into the office. One OBGYN from Alabama says that the switch to telemedicine, made easier by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, may change the way he practices for good.

“This has been an extreme time for pregnant women,” says Dr. David McKee, an OBGYN with Birmingham Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C. in Birmingham, Alabama. McKee has been in practice for 35 years, and he doesn’t recall a time quite like now, caring for patients during a global pandemic. “Pregnancy is already a very anxiety provoking time in a woman’s life," he says. Now, pregnant women are also worried about COVID-19 and how it might affect their babies.

Pregnant patients help gather and report data with some simple tools at home

McKee says he and the eight other doctors in his practice are taking care of most patients via telemedicine, with a little help from home technology. McKee asks his patients to rent a Doppler so they can listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home, and to buy a home blood pressure cuff. The only other equipment they need for routine virtual visits are a scale and a smart phone or computer for seeing or talking to the doctor. “We listen to the baby’s heart together,” says McKee, “ask questions about blood pressure, weight, the baby’s movement.”

McKee says virtual visits have worked just as well as in-person visits for patients who are not high risk or needing urgent care. Talking to a doctor from home saves his patients a trip in the car, the need to find childcare for other children and, of course, concerns about potential exposure to the virus. Women who need to be seen in person can always be accommodated.

Making telehealth affordable and accessible: “a game changer for our patients”

McKee and his associates had a telehealth option in place before the COVID-19 pandemic, but used it infrequently. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama changed that by breaking down barriers to access. The health plan waived co-pays and deductibles for members, as well as increased education and communications regarding the safety and quality of care telehealth represents. “It was a game changer for our patients,” says McKee.

The affordability, quality and convenience have made patients more comfortable with telehealth, McKee believes. And because it’s worked so well, he says it will play a much greater role in his practice going forward. Why drive an hour for a standard checkup, he asks, when you can be safely seen in your home with a phone and some simple equipment?
Meanwhile, to ensure the safety of patients coming into the office, McKee's staff members are tested and have their temperatures taken daily. Upon testing negative, they wear a badge on their name tag indicating they’ve passed the test for that day.

Learn more about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is a licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.