Going “virtual” for the health of mom and baby

January 22, 2015

At eight months pregnant, Jamie Colby was understandably nervous about navigating winter roads between Grand Forks and Nelson to get to her maternity care check-ups.   Thanks to a new, first-of-its-kind program in BC, Jamie and expectant moms like her, have been able to take part in ‘virtual’ visits with their maternity care provider while in their family doctor’s office.

The tele-maternity technology was developed as part of a pilot project developed by local family physicians (Kootenay Boundary Divisions of Family Practice), specialists and the Shared Care Committee.  The project is funded in partnership by Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health.

 “I wanted to be especially safe. The pass (between Grand Forks and Castlegar) can be really sketchy, especially in winter,” said Colby. “My last appointment in Nelson was only half an hour, but the drive took four hours.”

Jamie’s story is not an uncommon one in rural and remote communities. Expectant mothers may find it difficult, especially in the latter stages of their pregnancy, to make the drive to a larger center for maternity care. Geography, weather, and costs of travel can result in women seeing their maternity care providers less often.

“This is a new way of applying technology that has become familiar to anyone who chats online,” explains Mona Mattei, project manager for the tele-maternity pilot. “In the past patients and physicians would need to go to a high-tech video conferencing site at the hospital. This new tele-health service takes it to the next level. It’s easy to access and better for both patients and their physicians to ensure healthy babies.”

Women who want to use the service make their appointment with their regular family doctor and their maternity care provider at the same time. When the woman arrives at her local doctor’s office, she has a physical exam with her family doctor and then meets virtually with her maternity care provider to discuss results and other care planning.

Reflecting on her new option for maternity care, Colby said, “It was awesome. The visit was stress free, the connection was good and my doctor and midwife both really seemed to enjoy it.”

Mattei says they have tele-maternity sites at doctors’ offices ready to participate in Midway, Christina Lake, Grand Forks, New Denver and Salmo. This is all part of an initial pilot project, but more locations are in the works.

If you are interested in using tele-maternity, contact your family doctor and ask them to join the service. Or contact, Mona Mattei, 250.443.1899 and pass on your doctor’s name for follow up.

Learn more about the tele-maternity initiative and the Shared Care Committee here