From creating a new life to building a family, the maternal journey is one of healthcare's most pivotal experiences. The care a mother receives from conception through postpartum affects both her own health and her child's, and thus the health of our society at large. However, while effectively coordinating maternal care is critical, our healthcare system fails to achieve this consistently.

Telehealth is helping solve the maternal health criss

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and the gap is widening. After years of declining rates, preterm births are on a steady rise. One in seven women experiences depression in the year after giving birth. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the shortfalls in relying exclusively on in-person care. 

However, it also illustrated the power virtual care has to complement in-person care by providing 24/7 access and access to a whole range of specialty providers that improve outcomes. At Maven, we’ve found that a digital-only approach isn’t enough, as there are many procedures and conversations for which an in-person appointment is necessary. Instead, the solution comes in a "digital front door" — a digital entryway into care and services, accessible from anywhere, that can guide and steer patients to services that are digital or in-person. 

Our Care Advocates are critical to helping guide women to the proper care when they need it, 24/7, whether it's mental health support, urgent or emergency care, online content, community interaction, and more. Digital front doors, in the form of apps and care advocates, assist in increasing and improving patient engagement through compelling, tailored care that combines both digital and human experience elements. Let's dive into why this approach is vital to improving maternal and infant health outcomes.

Why are digital front doors important to the patient experience?

With so many different forms of care one can receive, digital front doors are much more than just virtual access to a physician or remote monitoring of symptoms. Telehealth is transforming the maternal care journey from occasional, interventional visits to continuous, preventative healthcare. Digital front doors can empower families to receive seamless, meaningful, and connected experiences that support their care at various points of their health journey.  

The current established structure of prenatal care severely limits the time pregnant women can spend with their providers, which can make it harder for patients to engage in their health or act as a true partner in their care. A virtual platform for maternal care targets these gaps, improving access to quality care, increasing engagement, and empowering patients. Even before the pandemic pushed maternal care online out of necessity, studies showed that many maternal healthcare services — routine prenatal care, consultation with specialists, and monitoring blood pressure and glucose levels, for example — can be delivered effectively and efficiently through video visits. Virtual care eliminates a patient’s need to travel and helps them stay engaged in their care, which contributes to healthy maternal and infant outcomes.  

With online tools and a more fluid customer experience, patients are more apt to make informed choices that result in reduced costs and better outcomes. Maven’s digital front door comes in the form of our easy-to-use mobile app, combined with our Care Advocates, who help members navigate their insurance, recommend healthcare providers, build trust with the platform, and by extension, health providers. 

Employers can get on board with the uptick in the popularity of digital front doors in healthcare — a recent survey saw that eight in ten large employers are emphasizing virtual care and telehealth in their healthcare benefit and care delivery strategies.

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Why employers should provide virtual care for parents

In providing new and innovative benefits to employees to improve healthcare outcomes, employers also need to be concerned with how they’re engaging their team members who need more support. Almost 88% of Americans want to continue using telehealth for nonurgent consultations after COVID-19 has passed. Implementing a digital front door proactively creates easy entry points to virtual care.

For expecting parents, telehealth and virtual care are revolutionizing an antiquated care model. Rather than relying on the strict cadence of the traditional pre and perinatal care, telehealth makes providers available as needed to answer questions, provide guidance, and offer educational resources. It can increase the number of touchpoints parents have with providers and inspire early interventions for various high-risk factors, including gestational diabetes, perinatal mood disorders, and preeclampsia.

Also, instead of forcing expecting parents to wait for the next appointment and rely on Google, social media, and word of mouth instead of physician support, digital care makes clinically vetted and accurate information available at a moment’s notice. This strategy recognizes that patients can access everything online, schedule an appointment on the weekend, and have more flexibility in general when it comes to receiving care. Digital health offers unprecedented efficiency and access and gives patients the type of convenience they need as working parents juggling multiple responsibilities. For employers, this means better healthcare outcomes thanks to early interventions that can reduce significant birth events like c-sections and NICU admissions.

The Challenges of Telehealth

The wide adoption of telehealth doesn’t come without its challenges—many of them logistical and operational. Some common ones include lack of financial reimbursement, a focus on technology instead of services, licensing barriers, and unrealistic expectations about what works and what doesn’t for telemedicine. 

Efforts in care coordination across multiple health initiatives can help alleviate these challenges, which is the goal of Maven’s platform. Maven allows health plans to reduce maternity-related costs, improve maternal health outcomes, and fill critical gaps in care for any path to parenthood. With the glorification of work in American culture, there is little in the way of policies to help working mothers balance work and family. Maven helps to change that with an easy-to-use app that employees can access on desktop or mobile so that working mothers can receive care at home, on the go, or anywhere they need it.

The Maven approach to digital healthcare

The trends emerging from pandemic-era best practices are digital-first, flexible, and empathetic approaches to care. For parents and families especially, the benefits are clear: providing access to the care they need, at a convenient time, with providers that can address their unique needs. The “digital front door” of telehealth inspires more parents to seek help and ask questions and get assistance and information from specialty care providers throughout their journey.

For HR Leaders, implementing a digital front door, whether through a digital health solution or a health plan, can provide employees with tools and resources to support their care, achieve better outcomes, and drive down individual healthcare costs. 

A digital-first approach to parenting benefits and family care can overcome many of the prevailing challenges to champion health equity and global parity of benefits. Ready to start providing world-class maternity care and telehealth options for your team? Get started here.

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