Where Maternal Health Inequities Persist, Digital Tools May Assist

April 26, 2024
Study shows that digitally enabled care can help in accessing customized care

To understand how digital tools can be helpful in the pregnancy journey, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed 2000 women during July and August 2023 who were pregnant in the two years prior. Deloitte Center for Health Solutions also interviewed healthcare providers for their study.

According to the article posted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, the survey found digital tools could boost maternal health empowerment. Over 70 percent of respondents indicated they use technology to manage health needs. The survey results also show that patients of varied backgrounds use patient portals and health apps more frequently during their pregnancy journey.

However, the authors noted, “Black, mixed-race, and Hispanic respondents were twice as likely as White respondents to say that digital tools for maternal health did not meet their personal needs or align with their cultural backgrounds.”

“Patient portals, online scheduling platforms, and communication tools are the bare minimum that should be provided to patients to access care,” the authors Kulleni Gebreyes, Heather Nelson, Margaret Punch, Jay Bhatt, Mani Keita, and Christine Chang, wrote. Using digital tools can also meet more specific needs, such as weight and nutrition management and maternal health learning.

The survey concluded that there is more potential for digital tools. The authors stated that healthcare providers showed interest in additional tools, such as a virtual doula, which could help educate pregnant women. The organization pointed out a health system using an artificial intelligence (AI)enabled pregnancy chatbot that sends alerts to care management based on patient data.

Digital tools can also amply patient voices, the authors argued. “When patients can share data that shows their blood pressure changed or that the fetal movement pattern wasn’t consistent during the previous few days, providers can be better equipped to act.”

Some survey respondents indicated that not all digital tools are easy to use or accessible. “Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents noted the lack of interoperability as a challenge when using digital tools. Interoperable tools allow multiple users to access data from different systems and use that data to coordinate care,” the authors observed.

The authors underscored that digital tools are not the ultimate solution to maternal health inequities. “The focus should be on how digital tools can be used alongside and to enhance other interventions, including in-person interactions,” according to the article.

 

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