Widespread implementation of a low-cost telehealth service in the delivery of antenatal care during the COVID-19 pandemic: an interrupted time-series analysis

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Abstract

Background: Little evidence is available on the use of telehealth for antenatal care. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed and implemented a new antenatal care schedule integrating telehealth across all models of pregnancy care. To inform this clinical initiative, we aimed to assess the effectiveness and safety of telehealth in antenatal care. Methods: We analysed routinely collected health data on all women giving birth at Monash Health, a large health service in Victoria (Australia), using an interrupted time-series design. We assessed the impact of telehealth integration into antenatal care from March 23, 2020, across low-risk and high-risk care models. Allowing a 1-month implementation period from March 23, 2020, we compared the first 3 months of telehealth integrated care delivered between April 20 and July 26, 2020, with conventional care delivered between Jan 1, 2018, and March 22, 2020. The primary outcomes were detection and outcomes of fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, and gestational diabetes. Secondary outcomes were stillbirth, neonatal intensive care unit admission, and preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks' gestation). Findings: Between Jan 1, 2018, and March 22, 2020, 20 031 women gave birth at Monash Health during the conventional care period and 2292 women gave birth during the telehealth integrated care period. Of 20 154 antenatal consultations provided in the integrated care period, 10 731 (53%) were delivered via telehealth. Overall, compared with the conventional care period, no significant differences were identified in the integrated care period with regard to the number of babies with fetal growth restriction (birthweight below the 3rd percentile; 2% in the integrated care period vs 2% in the conventional care period, p=0·72, for low-risk care models; 5% in the integrated care period vs 5% in the conventional care period, p=0·50 for high-risk care models), number of stillbirths (1% vs 1%, p=0·79; 2% vs 2%, p=0·70), or pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia (3% vs 3%, p=0·70; 9% vs 7%, p=0·15), or gestational diabetes (22% vs 22%, p=0·89; 30% vs 26%, p=0·06). Interrupted time-series analysis showed a significant reduction in preterm birth among women in high-risk models (–0·68% change in incidence per week [95% CI −1·37 to −0·002]; p=0·049), but no significant differences were identified in other outcome measures for low-risk or high-risk care models after telehealth integration compared with conventional care. Interpretation: Telehealth integrated antenatal care enabled the reduction of in-person consultations by 50% without compromising pregnancy outcomes. This care model can help to minimise in-person interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but should also be considered in post-pandemic health-care models. Funding: None.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalThe Lancet
Volume398
Issue number10294
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2021

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