For the first time in B.C., expectant mothers can participate in virtual visits with their maternity care provider directly from their local family doctor’s office, thanks to new tele-maternity (video conferencing) technology developed as a part of a Shared Care/Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice pilot project. The project is funded in partnership by Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health.
The lead physician for the program in Grand Forks is Dr. Nathan Dalla Lana. He was asked to take the physician lead by project manager Mona Mattei, who is program coordinator with Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice.
“I’ve been trying to set up basically a pilot project through our clinic with both Trail and Nelson although it’s been mostly Nelson so far,” he said. “I’ve spearheaded the development of the video-conferencing and then the trialing of it.”
He said the program is focused on pregnant women in the community and how to reduce travel times.
“Especially for young moms who might have other young children—driving two hours there and two hours back to Nelson for a 15 minute appointment—we want to avoid that.”
Dalla Lana said the program is also a great way to have better communication with the doctors here, who do a lot of the pre-natal care, and either the midwife or the delivery doctor in Nelson.
Dalla Lana said the feedback from the moms in the program has been very positive.
“The moms have been quite happy with it in terms of preventing travel time,” he said. “(It’s been good about) communicating and helping avoid problems through travel over there once they travel over there and go into labour.”
Jamie Colby, a young mom from Grand Forks, was able to use tele-maternity in December to connect with her midwife. Reflecting on her new option for maternity care, Colby said, “It was awesome. The visit was stress free, the connection was good and my doctor and midwife also seemed to really enjoy it.”
Colby, a 24 year-old first time mom, had her baby delivered in Nelson four weeks ago. Before learning about tele-maternity she was traveling two hours from Grand Forks to Nelson to meet with her midwife about once per month for pre-natal appointments.
“I didn’t know they had the tele-conferencing available,” she said. “I was going to Nelson where they brought it up with me. I phoned my doctor here (Sebastian) and we set it up.”
Colby said the biggest benefit was not having to drive the Paulsen Summit in the winter.
“I think it’s convenient,” she said. “Saving money and saving time was the big factor. You spend four hours traveling time for a 15 minute appointment. It was just like having a regular doctor’s visit with them.”
Colby said she would get a physical check up from Dr. Sebastian and he would relay any message to the midwife. “I would then talk about any questions with the midwife,” she said. “I was able to talk about my birth plan. It was like she was in the room. It was really pleasant and easygoing.”