Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in tech-based approaches to improving maternal outcomes and the birthing journey. While most women still have in-person visits to check the progress of their pregnancy, deliver or check-in following delivery, technology can expand the reach of health care services.
Digital solutions, including remote patient monitoring, mobile health apps, and telehealth visits can facilitate continuous communication between expecting and new moms and their care teams. They also can provide a sense of comfort and security, which is much needed during this period of life.
As hospitals and health systems increase their use of technology, it’s important to remember that not all patients have access to digital solutions. There are many barriers to access – including lack of access to broadband or internet at speeds high enough to support these solutions. According to Federal Communications Commission data, 21 million Americans don’t have access to broadband internet; 42 million can’t afford to purchase it. In addition, many individuals still do not own smartphones. The Pew Research Center reports that 14% of individuals living in rural areas own a cellphone but not a smartphone.
Even with access to technology, digital literacy – the ability to use, process and understand technology – can be a barrier to access. For example, individuals may face language or cultural barriers needed to engage with digital solutions.
At Becker’s Healthcare Conference, I had the opportunity to discuss digital solutions and the work that must be done to improve digital health equity, with two health care leaders – Alisahah Jackson, M.D., CommonSpirit Health’s system vice president of population health innovation and policy and Christina Yarrington, M.D., director of labor and delivery and the division director for maternal fetal medicine at Boston Medical Center.