Introduction: Obstetric providers have used telemedicine to manage gestational diabetes, mental health, and prenatal care. However, the uptake of telemedicine in this field has not been universal. The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed the adoption of telehealth in obstetric care, which will have lasting effects, especially for rural communities. We sought to understand the experience of adapting to telehealth among obstetric providers in the Rocky Mountain West to identify implications for policy and practice. Methods: This study included 20 semi-structured interviews with obstetric providers in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The interviews followed a moderator's guide based on the Aday & Andersen Framework for the Study of Access to Medical Care, exploring domains of health policy, the health system, the utilization of health services, and the population at risk. All the interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Findings indicate that participants view telehealth as a useful tool during prenatal and postpartum care; many participants intend to continue telehealth practices after the pandemic. Participants shared that their patients reported benefits to telehealth beyond COVID-19 safety, including limiting travel time, reducing time off work, and alleviating childcare needs. Participants expressed concern that expanding telehealth will not equally benefit all patients and could widen existing health inequities. Discussion: Success moving forward will require a telehealth infrastructure, adaptive telehealth models, and provider and patient training. As obstetric telehealth expands, efforts must prioritize equitable access for rural and low-income communities, so all patients can benefit from the technological advancements to support health.
- obstetric care
- rocky mountain west