A Love Letter to OB Telemedicine

I have waited for you for twenty years, and now that you have been approved and adopted into mainstream obstetrical care, I’m practically in tears.

 

I knew you were coming when software developed back in the late nineties that allowed remote viewing from a computer.  Having been an ob-gyn physician for almost ten years at that time, I visualized how helpful you would be in reducing preventable medical errors, which, as you know, remains my passion.

 

Along my journey to bring you to life, I met a kindred spirit named Dr. Curtis Lowery, Chairman of the OB-GYN Department at the University of Arkansas Medical School. Dr. Lowery developed the telemedicine ANGELS program, which provided virtual services to high-risk pregnant women in the entire state of Arkansas, which was unprecedented. It was also paid for by his state Medicaid program.


These were the pre-Wifi, pre-Blue Tooth days with data transferred via bandwidth. Dr. Lowery was incredibly gracious and tolerant of my incessant questions and sent me a DVD to show me how the ANGEL Program worked. 

 

I contacted the Medicaid Director of Arkansas to inquire why OB telemedicine was approved, and her response was straightforward and honest: “It saves the state money, especially with transportation costs.”

 

I was now on a mission to try to get my state to do the same thing. I used data to demonstrate to our Surgeon General, Dr. John Agwunobi, how telemedicine could change the dismal statistics of maternal mortality and morbidity in the northern counties of our state. Although he agreed that some innovation was necessary, OB telemedicine was not mainstream.

 

In 2013, I received a certificate in clinical informatics from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. I gave a software designer my algorithm and ideas in the hope of bringing you to life. Unfortunately, she did not have integrity, and in the middle of the most challenging time of my life, including a highly contentious divorce and the development of eye issues, she gave my algorithm and intellectual to marketing people who quickly raised money and introduced you, my OB telemedicine model to the market under false pretenses.

 

Despite the ravages of the COVID pandemic, there is a silver lining. OB virtual visits are now mainstream, and I am committed to teaching both my colleagues and patients how to use you effectively. The goal was never to make money for shareholders and investors, but to enhance quality healthcare and save human lives.


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