Telemedicine offers potential intervention for pregnant women with opioid addictions

Lorie Harper, MD, an assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's division of maternal-fetal medicine, is leading a research effort to improve birth outcomes for rural women with opioid dependencies, the university announced March 14.

For the study, Dr. Harper will work with the Alabama Department of Health to assess the effectiveness of in-person opioid agonist therapy versus the same therapy delivered via telemedicine. The telemedicine intervention will use remote video and audio conferencing, alongside supplemental technologies like Bluetooth stethoscopes.

The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine awarded its inaugural Aetna Health Policy Award to fund the research project.

In previous studies, opioid agonist therapy has been proven to increase pregnant women's participation in prenatal care, improving outcomes for both the mother and child by reducing the incidence of relapses. However, treatment is typically offered in-person with a physician, posing a challenge for women in rural areas facing transportation barriers.

"We're working to reduce health disparities that impact mothers across our state and provide quality care that can help these women lead healthy pregnancies and lives," Dr. Harper said in a March 14 statement.

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