OBJECTIVE: The aims of this study were to evaluate patients' opinions on a fetal cardiology telemedicine service compared with usual outpatient care, the effect of the telemedicine consultation on maternal anxiety and its impact on travel times and time absent from work.
METHODS: Prospective study over 20 months. Eligible patients attended for routine anomaly scan followed by fetal echocardiogram transmitted to the regional centre with live guidance by a fetal cardiologist, followed by parental counselling. All patients were offered a fetal cardiology appointment at the regional centre. Structured questionnaires assessing maternal satisfaction, travel times/days off and anxiety scores completed at time of both fetal echocardiograms.
RESULTS: Sixty-seven patients were recruited and 66 completed the study. Participants expressed very high satisfaction rates with fetal telecardiology, equivalent to face-to-face consultation. The telecardiology appointments were associated with significantly reduced travel times and days off work (p < 0.01). Expectant mothers expressed a clear inclination for a fetal cardiology appointment at the local hospital facilitated by telemedicine (p < 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: Fetal telecardiology is highly acceptable to patients and is even preferred compared with travelling to a regional centre. There are additional socio-economic benefits that should encourage the development of remote fetal cardiology services.
- Ambulatory Care/psychology
- Cardiology Service, Hospital/organization & administration
- Fetal Diseases/diagnosis
- Heart Diseases/congenital
- Patient Preference/economics
- Patient Satisfaction/statistics & numerical data
- Prenatal Diagnosis/economics
- Referral and Consultation/organization & administration
- Socioeconomic Factors
- Young Adult