Patient and provider perspectives of a new prenatal care model introduced in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Apr;224(4):384.e1-384.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2020.10.008. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Background: Randomized controlled trials document the safety and efficacy of reduced frequency prenatal visit schedules and virtual visits, but real-world data are lacking. Our institution created a prenatal care delivery model incorporating these alternative approaches to continue safely providing prenatal care during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Objective: To evaluate institutional-level adoption and patient and provider experiences with the coronavirus disease 2019 prenatal care model.

Study design: We conducted a single-site evaluation of a coronavirus disease 2019 prenatal care model incorporating a reduced frequency visit schedule and virtual visits deployed at a suburban academic institution on March 20, 2020. We used electronic health record data to evaluate institution-level model adoption, defined as changes in overall visit frequency and proportion of virtual visits in the 3 months before and after implementation. To evaluate the patient and provider experience with the coronavirus disease 2019 model, we conducted an online survey of all pregnant patients (>20 weeks' gestation) and providers in May 2020. Of note, 3 domains of care experience were evaluated: (1) access, (2) quality and safety, and (3) satisfaction. Quantitative data were analyzed with basic descriptive statistics. Free-text responses coded by the 3 survey domains elucidated drivers of positive and negative care experiences.

Results: After the coronavirus disease 2019 model adoption, average weekly prenatal visit volume fell by 16.1%, from 898 to 761 weekly visits; the average weekly proportion of prenatal visits conducted virtually increased from 10.8% (97 of 898) to 43.3% (330 of 761); and the average visit no-show rate remained stable (preimplementation, 4.3%; postimplementation, 4.2%). Of those eligible, 74.8% of providers (77 of 103) and 15.0% of patients (253 of 1690) participated in the surveys. Patient respondents were largely white (180 of 253; 71.1%) and privately insured (199 of 253; 78.7%), reflecting the study site population. The rates of chronic conditions and pregnancy complications also differed from national prevalence. Provider respondents were predominantly white (44 of 66; 66.7%) and female (50 of 66; 75.8%). Most patients and almost all providers reported that virtual visits improved access to care (patients, 174 of 253 [68.8%]; providers, 74 of 77 [96.1%]). More than half of respondents (patients, 124 of 253 [53.3%]; providers, 41 of 77 [62.1%]) believed that virtual visits were safe. Nearly all believed that home blood pressure cuffs were important for virtual visits (patients, 213 of 231 [92.2%]; providers, 63 of 66 [95.5%]). Most reported satisfaction with the coronavirus disease 2019 model (patients, 196 of 253 [77.5%]; providers, 64 of 77 [83.1%]). In free-text responses, drivers of positive care experiences were similar for patients and providers and included perceived improved access to care through decreased barriers (eg, transportation, childcare), perceived high quality of virtual visits for low-risk patients and increased safety during the pandemic, and improved satisfaction through better patient counseling. Perceived drivers of negative care experience were also similar for patients and providers, but less common. These included concerns that unequal access to virtual visits could deepen existing maternity care inequities, concerns that the lack of home devices (eg, blood pressure cuffs) would affect care quality and safety, and dissatisfaction with poor patient-provider continuity and inadequate expectation setting for the virtual visit experience.

Conclusion: Reduced visit schedules and virtual visits were rapidly integrated into real-world care, with positive experiences for many patients and providers. Future research is needed to understand the health outcomes and care experience associated with alternative approaches to prenatal care delivery across more diverse patient populations outside of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic to inform broader health policy decisions.

Keywords: antenatal care; care delivery; coronavirus disease 2019; gestational diabetes mellitus screening; patient-centered care; postpartum care; prenatal care; telemedicine; ultrasound; vaccination; virtual care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Telemedicine*