Philips Foundation, March of Dimes to deploy tele-ultrasound tech at mobile maternity care clinics

The Philips Foundation is teaming up with March of Dimes to equip mobile maternity care clinics with telehealth-enabled ultrasound technology.

The technology will be available at three March of Dimes Mom & Baby Mobile Health Centers in Phoenix, Tucson and Washington, D.C.

Philips will also provide support staffing and allowances for local healthcare partners and community health workers. All the services provided at the mobile units are free to patients.

“Philips is a highly regarded healthcare technology company and we’re pleased to partner with Philips Foundation to ensure that every mom and baby gets the best possible start,” Elizabeth Cherot, M.D., March of Dimes president and CEO, said in a press release.

The U.S. has the worst maternal health outcomes among developed countries. More than half of rural hospitals do not offer labor and delivery services. Yet routine ultrasounds to check a fetus’s health, monitor the pregnancy and detect congenital anomalies are critical, the partners say. 

The March of Dimes mobile clinics work with local clinical partners, like hospitals, to provide care, education and support in communities with limited access to maternity care. Clinic staff will now also be able to leverage Philips technology to connect patients remotely with hospital-based OBs specializing in high-risk pregnancies. Each patient’s medical records are part of their clinical partner’s files, which helps facilitate continuity of care. 

“It takes a village to raise a child. But what if we also looked at mom that way?” Dana Medema, Philips' senior vice president of personal health for North America, told Fierce Healthcare.

Mobile healthcare delivery is a proven model to improve access to care, the partners argue. Research supports this claim, showing that such clinics have demonstrated improvements in health outcomes and reductions in costs. 

“The data has shown that mobile care does change outcomes, because you brought it closer, you put it in their community with people who they are comfortable with,” Medema said. “And you're demystifying sometimes a very scary world for them.” 

Not only do the mobile units get important support from hospitals, Medema added, but hospitals also get the benefit of expanding throughout the community. “It also helps the health system extend care to the community through these vehicles. It's kind of a two-way street, because they want the whole community to be healthy,” Medema said.

The partners are focused on assessing the effectiveness and reach of the vehicles before considering any expansion. Reporting measures include the total number of visits, number of unique patients, outreach locations where services are provided and health insurance type. 

There is no concrete timeline on when the collaboration might end, Medema said. Philips is looking to remain a long-term partner with March of Dimes.

“This is, ... no pun intended, one vehicle that we want to leverage in addressing this issue. But it's just one vehicle,” Medema said.