Maternity Startup Oula Expands Virtual Pregnancy Care Between Office Visits
Oula, a maternity center that combines obstetrics and midwifery, has expanded its virtual care options to modernize care for pregnant women.
Offering a hybrid of clinical care, Oula has an office in Brooklyn, New York and also sees patients via telehealth.
Oula’s rationale is that most of the physical and mental pregnancy care takes place between provider visits, so the platform makes it easy for pregnant women to contact the medical team. The platform can also offer telehealth appointments for more than half of regular prenatal visits.
Some of the latest virtual features include âmessage a midwifeâ for questions via a mobile app or a âcare plan builderâ, which helps patients make key decisions about their pregnancy. In addition, the app offers appointment scheduling and mental recordings.
Oula co-founders Adrianne Nickerson and Elaine Purcell launched the startup in 2019 with the idea of ââbuilding a maternity hospital around a collaborative care model.
In October 2020, the startup raised $ 3.2 million in seed funding led by the Collaborative Fund. Female Founders Fund, 8VC, Metrodora, Kapor Capital, Rock Health, January Ventures and Great Oaks, as well as leading healthcare operators including Tom Lee, founder of One Medical and Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of Maven Clinic, also participated in the tour.
As Oula opened the doors of its Brooklyn clinic in early 2021, the expansion of the virtual platform was inevitable given the COVID-19 pandemic and the trajectory of tech-backed healthcare. .
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According to Joanne Schneider DeMeireles, experience manager at Oula, antenatal care has not changed much in almost 100 years. This means that patients traditionally visit a clinic between 12 and 14 times in the nine months, with limited interaction with the clinical team between visits and minimal support during the postpartum period.
âThe goal of our technology was to fundamentally shift from this one-size-fits-all transactional care model to one that meets women where they are,â Schneider DeMeireles told Fierce Healthcare. âWe started with what we see as the ‘table stakes’ online features: scheduling, messaging, and accessing test results that are the foundation of continuing care. “
Schneider DeMeireles says Oula has developed their system of continuity of care by working closely with OB / GYN patients.
âThat being said, when building this hybrid solution, we made it a priority to enable two-way communication between patients and their care teams,â she said. “Traditionally, pregnancy care has focused on what happens during clinical appointments, but most of the physical and mental experience happens between these appointments.”
For example, the platform’s ‘message a midwife’ feature allows patients to contact midwives directly with questions, from blood test results to insurance, so women don’t have to wait for their next date to get answers.
Another best practice that the Oula team learned from working with patients is the need for education and evidence-based counseling during the pregnancy planning process.
âWe have really refined the educational features of our portal to support confident and informed decision-making processes for patients. Specifically, by integrating birth education around the different stages of labor and coping and comfort techniques, our platform really helps our patients organize what to think about when, âsaid Schneider DeMeireles .
Additionally, there is a Care Creation feature that guides patients through their decision-making process by asking questions to consider: Does the patient want genetic testing? Does she want to hire a doula? Does she plan to breastfeed?
âWe believe it is essential to equip patients with the knowledge they need to chart their own unique pregnancy paths,â added Schneider DeMeireles.
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Schneider DeMeireles says the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the fact that women have very different preferences when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.
“Some women may be reluctant to have more in-person visits for fear of increased exposure to COVID-19, and we can support this through our online platform with telehealth appointments and monitoring tools at distance, âshe said. âThis is also where Oula’s business model aligns well with the healthcare direction, which is moving towards more virtual care and digital integration. “
Oula also provides remote patient monitoring and recording to support patient mental health.
“This is especially important during the fourth trimester and postpartum, so our healthcare team uses these remote ‘recordings’ to continue supporting mothers after baby arrives, especially throughout these critical first weeks. “Schneider DeMeireles said.
Oula recently announced its first hospital partnership with Mount Sinai West. The hospital will welcome the deliveries of Oula patients, offering a midwifery approach to childbirth combined with the resources of cutting-edge medical expertise. Patients will have full access to specialists at the hospital while remaining under the care of the Oula medical team for non-surgical deliveries.
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âOur partnership with Mount Sinai West fits perfectly with our shared vision of delivering a low-intervention approach to low-risk patients, as well as our team’s previous experience at this hospital,â Ila Dayananda, MD, Medical Director and chef d’Oula. responsible for clinical operations, said in a statement.
Over the next five years, Oula intends to further expand her maternal reach. The company will open a birthing center near Mount Sinai West to provide an alternative for those looking for a safe option outside of a hospital setting.
As more conversations continue about the need for enhanced positive childbirth experiences, Oula envisions the increasingly standardized midwifery participation among pregnancy service providers.
“With the growing importance of maternal mental health, due to the stress caused by the pandemic this year, we hope to see the national health system take a more holistic approach by meeting mental and physical needs throughout care. pregnancy, âsaid Schneider DeMeireles. .
She added, âThis is a critical aspect of Oula’s collaborative care model, as our team works with patients to navigate a variety of support providers for services such as nutrition counseling and healthcare. breastfeeding, doula care, group therapy, etc. We hope to see more in the healthcare space provides patients with more affordable and accessible options for these types of services and, as a result, reduces alarming maternal mortality and healthy birth rates in our country. country.