BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Right now, if a woman with a high-risk pregnancy in a rural Alabama county is referred to a specialist, she will likely have to travel to Birmingham. That’s because there are only a handful of maternal-fetal medicine physicians in the state. But a new grant, is aimed at changing that.
The $200,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission is giving UAB the ability to add tele-health sites in Bibb County, at the Bibb Medical Center, and in Lauderdale County, at the North Alabama Medical Center.
“It’s very exciting for our state. We know that maternal mortality is increasing, we have a higher number of high risk pregnancies and these women just can’t get us,” explains Dr. Louisa Wetta. Associate Professor of Maternal fetal medicine at UAB. “It’s very exciting to be able to reach out to them and give them the access to our care and services, and it’s exciting to be able to give these women the care they may not otherwise be receiving.”
The women are referred to specialists from their local OBGYN for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the mother’s health, with complications from a pre-existing condition like diabetes. Or the local doctor has seen something suspicious on the regular ulta-sound.
“The patients are referred to us for various reasons, they are at high risk of having a baby with a birth defect, or their doctor locally did an ultrasound that is suspicious for a birth defect, or they have had a blood test that showed an increase risk of a chromosomal problem,” explains Dr. Wetta.
The new center will allow those patients to have a high risk ulta-sound, and have immediate discussions with specialists at UAB.
“The tech will get all the images that we would normally get if the patient was here in person. Either myself or a college will review the images, either live while the patient is getting the ultrasound or the still images will be reviewed and we will have the opportunity to talk to the patient via telehealth to give her feedback on how things look on the ultrasound,” explains Dr. Wetta.
The new tele-health patient rooms are expected to be ready for patients by the end of the year.