This project will use a telemedicine network to provide prenatal care for predominately Native Hawaiians and recent immigrants from South Asia. The patients customarily seek healthcare services from Hawaii's network of nine largely rural community health centers, which are not equipped to manage complicated pregnancies.
The network will enable patients served in rural health centers to be "seen" via a telemedicine link to the Fetal Diagnostic Center at Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu. The ultrasound machines currently used by these centers will be adapted to permit viewing of fetuses on both a real-time basis and by store/forward technology. Perinatologists (specialists in obstetrics) will provide diagnoses and medical advice accordingly. In addition, the examination rooms will be equipped with basic interactive video-teleconferencing equipment to enhance communications among physicians, primary care providers, and patients during ultrasound scans or for other consultation discussions.
In the entire state of Hawaii, there are only five perinatologists. All work at the Fetal Diagnostic Center in Honolulu. Currently, the only way for them to see many rural patients is by visiting rural community centers once a month inadequate for a woman with a complicated pregnancy who needs specialty consults available at any time. The lack of care is further complicated by the fact that there is a strong cultural resistance to travel from rural to urban settings; many women do not have access to plane or car travel, and others simply cannot manage public transportation in their pregnant state. This project will serve as a model for the use of telemedicine as the logical alternative to providing medical care to women in rural areas.
Partners include Hawaii's nine, small, non-profit Community Health Centers, which provide care for the majority of Native Hawaiian and Filipino residents. In addition, the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, a private trust based in Baltimore and Honolulu, will provide funding for PictureTel Concorde video-teleconferencing equipment. The University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine will donate technical personnel, and the Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children will contribute the expertise of the Fetal Diagnostic Center's five physician specialists.