The coronavirus pandemic has complicated pregnancy and labor, and stay-at-home orders have made parenting a newborn all the more difficult.
But mothers to infants in Philadelphia will now have in-home access to something that’s typically offered in-person: lactation counseling.
Thanks to a partnership with Philadelphia’s Departments of Public Health and Human Services, city residents can now access breastfeeding-related resources with video chat through the tele-health company Pacify Health, a membership-based app that connects users with providers of maternal and pediatric care.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new mothers in Philadelphia will have unlimited free access to expert help through at least July 1 on latching techniques, breast pain, maintaining adequate milk supply, pumping, and transitioning babies to solid foods. City officials estimate there are more than 5,000 mothers in Philadelphia with babies at breastfeeding age.
Stacey Kallem, a pediatrician and director of the Department of Public Health’s division of maternal, child, and family health, said officials had heard that some new families were having trouble accessing services, including breastfeeding support, that often takes place in clinics.
“With this,” Kallem said, “it really takes out the risk of leaving your home.”
Pacify had been in talks to contract with the city before the pandemic, but the timeline was accelerated to make the services available now, while women are holed up at home and may be unable to access lactation clinics in-person, said Pacify CEO George Brandes.
“Even before hospitals shut down in-person lactation clinics,” Brandes said, “[city officials] contacted us and they said, ‘Hey, we see the writing on the wall. We’d like to talk about what our options are with modifying the structure of what we have and trying to offer it to all moms in Philadelphia as quickly as possible.’”
Pacify has similar partnerships elsewhere, including the city of Dallas and the state of Tennessee.
Brandes said overall call volume has increased by about 20% to 25% from existing customers in the last couple of weeks, and Pacify is adding providers in anticipation of the greater demand for remote video consultation.
Pacify’s structure is a bit like Uber’s, in that there is an app for users and a separate app for providers. The platform connects the users with providers who have been vetted by Pacify and are certified in lactation counseling. The video services can be used at any time of day and no appointment is necessary. According to the company, calls are typically answered within 30 seconds.
Pacify’s structure with the city of Philadelphia is distinctive in that it’s integrating four of the city’s counselors into the platform during their normal working hours, Kallem said. Users will likely reach a city counselor during the daytime hours and will be connected with a provider in Pacify’s network at other times or when demand is high. Either way, the experience won’t change for the user, Brandes said.
Kallem added that access to Pacify’s platform is part of a package of offerings from the Department of Public Health aimed at guiding parents and families through the pandemic, including an online resource guide.