Remote Care and Triage of Obstetric Patients with COVID-19: Operational Considerations
During the SARS‑CoV‑2 (COVID‑19) pandemic, routine antenatal care was disrupted, and pregnant women positive for COVID‑19 were at increased risk of caesarean section, intensive care admission or neonatal unit admission for their baby. Virtual care and telehealth can reduce barriers to care and improve maternity outcomes, and adoption has been encouraged by health authorities in the United Kingdom.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust deployed a flexible maternity virtual ward (MVW) service using the Current Health platform to care for pregnant women during the pandemic. Patients were monitored either intermittently with finger pulse oximetry or continuously with a wearable device. We outline the MVW technology, intervention and staffing model, triage criteria and patient feedback, as an example of an operational model for other institutions.
Between October 2021 and February 2022, 429 patients were referred, of which 228 were admitted to the MVW. Total bed‑days was 1,182, mean length of stay was 6 days (SD 2.3, range 1–14 days). Fifteen (6.6%) required hospital admission and one (0.4%) critical care. There were no deaths. Feedback alluded to feelings of increased safety, comfort, and ease with the technology.
The MVW offered a safety net to pregnant women positive for COVID‑19. It provided reassurance for staff, while relieving pressures on infrastructure. When setting up similar services in future, attention should be given to identifying clinical champions, triage criteria, technology and alarm selection, and establishing flexible escalation pathways that can adapt to changing patterns of disease. Keywords: Telemedicine, Remote consultation, Pregnancy, Change management, Delivery of healthcare