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Implementation of telemedicine preoperative visits for abortion procedures through 18 weeks gestation at a Northern California hospital-based center

      Abstract

      Objective

      Describe the implementation of a preoperative telemedicine program at a Northern California hospital-based center for abortion procedures requiring cervical preparation.

      Study Design

      We implemented a pilot program using telemedicine for preoperative visits for patients needing cervical preparation prior to an abortion procedure from 12 to 18 weeks. We required ultrasonography for gestational age documentation in addition to placental localization in patients with a prior cesarean delivery. We prescribed misoprostol for cervical preparation for patients undergoing the telemedicine preoperative visit; in-person preoperative visits typically involve placement of osmotic dilators. Secondarily, we surveyed patients who had telemedicine and in-person preoperative visits to compare their preoperative experiences.

      Results

      Implementation required 8 months of multidisciplinary meetings. From March 2018 through March 2019, we received 200 abortion referrals at 12 to 18 weeks gestation. Of these 200 patients, 119 did not meet telemedicine eligibility criteria, most commonly due to inability to obtain required ultrasonography (n = 89 [75%]). Of the remaining 81 patients, 43 scheduled telemedicine visits of which 41 initiated and 38 (88%) completed the visits. Twenty-one (55%) telemedicine encounters had no or minor technical difficulties. Thirty-one of 34 (91%) telemedicine and 91 of 108 (84%) in-person visit patients expressed high satisfaction with their preoperative appointment (p = 0.4); none reported dissatisfaction. Patients chose the telemedicine visit primarily for convenience and transportation concerns.

      Conclusion

      A multidisciplinary team is essential for the successful implementation of a preoperative telemedicine program for procedural abortion care. Patients reported high satisfaction and reduced logistical burdens with the telemedicine option.

      Implications

      Telemedicine preoperative visits for abortion procedures at 12 to 18 weeks gestation may improve access to abortion care, reduce patient burdens, and provide an alternative encounter option which may improve the patient experience.

      Keywords

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