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Telehealth Partnership Opens Continuum of Care, Brings MFM Services to Underserved Communities

Hospital Profile

Baptist Medical Center East is a 25-bed Level II Trauma Center located in Montgomery, Alabama. The facility has more than 3,500 annual births.

The Challenge

In rural America, maternal fetal medicine (MFM) physicians are scarce. For high-risk pregnancies in these communities, this means putting pregnant mothers at risk and forcing them to seek treatment elsewhere — often hours away from their referring facility.

Baptist Medical Center East lacked maternal fetal medicine providers and had to refer patients more than two hours away to receive care. The distance they had to travel was often too much for patients, leading to poor compliance and the loss of OB antepartum care, deliveries and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care at their facility.

Envision Physician Services recognized that telemedicine could offer a solution to fill this perinatology void, but there was one major roadblock to implementation: only one payor in the state — Medicaid — covered reimbursement for tele-MFM services.

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Solution Spotlight

Envision leadership recognized the issues that a lack of MFM services was causing for the facility’s patients, identified that telemedicine could be the key to solving these issues, and sought out Women’s Telehealth to initiate a tele-MFM partnership with Baptist Medical Center East.

Unique Solutions

Our organization’s leaders first sought a partnership with Women’s Telehealth, an Atlanta-based company providing tele-MFM services, by visiting the location to learn about its solutions and meet the company’s president, Tanya Mack.

Securing Access Through an Opened State Insurer Network

Mack reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Georgia for lobbying assistance with BCBS of Alabama, which manages more than 80 percent of the state’s commercial health insurance market. Baptist East’s CEO Jeff Rains also facilitated a meeting with VIVA insurance. Both payors agreed to begin paying for MFM telemedicine services, thereby completing our goal of developing a comprehensive managed care network.

Implementation

With the partnership set and a model for payment established, Envision Physician Services worked with Women’s Telehealth to deploy its services at Baptist East. Teams for both organizations collaborated to conduct an on-site, real-time demo to enable more than 30 stakeholders to see the service in action and formulate a plan for implementation.

We also championed integration between Women’s Telehealth’s technology and the facility’s EMR and PACS systems, on-site and distance perinatal scanning training of ultrasound techs, and the construction of a new, expandable perinatal telemedicine space on the Baptist Medical Center East campus.

Results

Within 90 days, the MFM telemedicine program at Baptist East became the largest tele-MFM service in the state. Within the first six months of the partnership, the program reduced local MFM patient bypass by more than 75 percent, and within that timeframe, only one patient transferred to an MFM provider outside of the community. Baptist East has also seen a 9 percent year-over-year increase in their average daily census.

By facilitating a partnership between Women’s Telehealth and Baptist Medical Center East, Envision Physician Services became part of a solution to increase patient access to care, reducing unnecessary transfers for high-risk pregnancies.