Does telehealth improve reproductive health outcomes in obstetrics and gynaecology, and is it an effective adjunct or alternative to standard of care? A review published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology aimed to answer that question.
Telehealth includes virtual visits, remote patient monitoring, and mobile apps or text. Authors report on a comprehensive literature review of studies using telehealth interventions in low-risk obstetrics, high-risk obstetrics, family planning and gynaecologic conditions.
The review included 47 articles and 31,967 participants. Family planning outcomes focused on contraception, medication abortion and remote follow-up after medication abortion. Low risk obstetrics outcomes included smoking cessation, influenza vaccination, pregnancy wellness, and breastfeeding while high-risk obstetrics outcomes investigated diabetes management, visit reduction, asthma control, and preterm labour. The general gynaecological outcomes focused on sexually transmitted infections and stress urinary incontinence.
The review highlighted that text messaging was helpful to reinforce health behaviours (e.g. smoking cessation during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and adherence to contraception) while messaging to initiate a behaviour or treatment (e.g. starting a new contraceptive method) was not effective.
Telehealth can play an important role where there are barriers to facility-based care. In high-risk obstetrics, telehealth improved the management of diabetes, hypertension and medication abortion. The safety and effectiveness of the telehealth service was equivalent to standard care.