Providers getting care guidance through help line

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s Periscope Project is helping care providers avoid disastrous outcomes in helping pregnant and recently pregnant patients.

Dr. Laura Jacques is an academic specialist in general obstetrics and gynecology with UW-Madison. She tells she calls the Periscope Project once a week to check the safety of certain drugs for pregnant women.

“If I have somebody that’s on one of those newer meds that I’m not familiar with… they’ll help me make the dose adjustments, and give specific advice,” she said.

Jacques recently had a patient come in who was taking a newer medicine, but was still exhibiting “significant” anxiety and depression. She had been taking a certain medication dosage, but didn’t have a care provider managing her case.

“I had no experience with this medicine, so I called in,” she said. “They gave me specific medication adjustments, and they can also help with other info.”

Another recent patient had postpartum psychosis, a rare but serious condition which can present after birth. This patient had no history of mental issues and no problems in pregnancy, but she had become worried she was going to harm her young twins.

“She had been picking them up, shaking them… After talking with her, she had been having delusions and hallucinations,” she said. “I called Periscope, got emergency help in the area. She’s now doing really well; she got care the same day.”

“Previously, if we were worried, my old resource was just to call the police for emergency detention,” she continued. “Now, I can get her the care she needed right away outside of the legal system.”

Dr. Christina Wichman, director of the Periscope Project, (pictured here) says many obstetricians might get some basic experience with treating mental health issues in their patient population, but most don’t get much formal training.

That’s a problem, she says, in particular because the area of perinatal psychiatry is evolving “incredibly rapidly,” making it hard for busy providers to stay up-to-date.

The Periscope Project was launched about a year and a half ago, and currently has over 400 physicians taking part. Wichman expects to have over 500 participating doctors sometime next year.

The project started in the greater Milwaukee area, but was expanded when organizers recognized how successful it’s been. She says it’s now been adopted in Madison, Green Bay, Appleton and La Crosse, and smaller cities are being considered for further expansion.

“We’re really trying to come at this from as many different ways as we can, to meet both providers where they’re at, to being able to meet patients where they’re at,” Wichman said.

The program is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the UnitedHealthcare Foundation.

Listen to a podcast with Wichman:   

See a previous story on the program:

–By Alex Moe