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Rural Health Information Hub

Tele-Maternal Health

A wide range of private technology companies, universities, and nonprofit organizations are working on developing innovative technologies that may connect rural mothers to maternal health services via phone, video, or web-based interaction. Maternity care, breastfeeding support, and mental health and substance use disorder treatment services may be available in rural communities through telehealth technology.

Advances in technology have allowed for virtual delivery of numerous healthcare services, including prenatal care. There are different methods of receiving virtual care. Some appointments can take place at a patient's home using their cell phone, tablet, or computer; other virtual care takes place in a local clinic with high-definition conference equipment that allows the patient to communicate with a specialist in another location. Both options provide the benefit of minimizing travel time to visit specialists.

Telehealth aids in overcoming barriers to healthcare access, including transportation and other barriers to meeting with providers face-to-face. While there are clear benefits of telehealth, there are also limitations of virtual care. For example, limited access to broadband internet can affect patients' access and ability to participate in virtual care.

In 2018, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau allocated several grants to support a wide array of companies and individuals in implementing promising solutions for rural communities in the fields of breastfeeding, opioid addiction, and mental health. For example, the Remote Pregnancy Monitoring Challenge supports innovative solutions that use technology to assist providers in monitoring the health of pregnant women and helping women in making informed decisions about their care.

For more information on telehealth, see the Rural Telehealth Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Using Telehealth to Improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Georgia
Summarizes the Georgia state telehealth initiative to address and improve maternal and infant health outcomes by increasing state funding for telehealth programs and encouraging multisector partnerships.
Author(s): Salgado, S., Peart, S., & Akbarali, S.
Organization(s): Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
Date: 2018