Giving birth is no small feat and it can often be a very stressful experience for mothers, even more so if they lack access to neonatal care. A lot of birthing facilities tend not to have onsite neonatal care resources, so if the baby is born preterm or with low birth weight, immediate care for the mother and the child is sometimes unavailable.
The worst-case scenario in these conditions can be fatal. In-person assistance and the transportation of babies and the mother to neonatal facilities can be costly for healthcare providers and stressful for the mother and baby.
This is where neonatal telehealth comes in. Healthcare providers can have neonatal specialists be in constant contact with the patient, providing remote consultation for infant care using live video and audio.
What Is Telehealth?
Telemedicine or telehealth is the remote delivery of healthcare services as well as medical information using telecommunication technology. The model for this kind of service is known as a hub-and-spoke model, meaning there is one center that imparts information and services to several communities, houses, and hospitals.
Telemedicine has two major branches, one of them deals with issues in real-time, known as synchronous telemedicine. The other deals with store-and-forward type issues like data transfer from one facility to another for examination or remote patient monitoring programs that send data to healthcare providers on a daily-basis for follow-up.
Telemedicine aims to increase access to medical information in addition to expert care for all patients, even those who are geographically distant from a medical facility. The importance of telehealth has truly been felt after the coronavirus pandemic hit and the need for social distancing became imperative.
With so many people unable to visit doctors for minor as well as major health issues, telehealth has seemed like a godsend, as patients have been able to recover without physical medical assistance.
The Increase in Neonatal Telehealth
Neonatal health is extremely important because a significant number of newborns need to be stabilized post-birth for health reasons. Around 10% of newborns even require assistance in breathing to survive.
Using innovative technology and telehealth practices, most hospitals and medical facilities are now able to offer virtual clinical services to patients for a host of health issues, ranging from psychiatric, gastrointestinal, and even speech therapy. E-consultations have become a huge thing recently and their help is often targeted towards cardiology and neonatal patients.
Telehealth allows the patient and the healthcare expert to be in direct, high-definition visual contact. This allows pediatricians and neonatologists to easily see the breathing of the infant, their skin pigmentation, and make accurate assessments of the infant’s blood pressure.
In this way, telehealth allows for greater defense against life-threatening events that are often associated with childbirth.
Services Provided in Neonatal Telehealth
Major neonatal telehealth services include, but are in no way limited to, the following:
- Remote daily rounds,
- Consults and assists with diagnoses,
- Review of lab results, CT scans, and X-rays,
- Thorough patient assessments
Future of Telehealth in Neonatology
Since it has been around for a while now, telemedicine has developed more proactive models of caring for critical patients and even have an eICU for them.
An eICU consists of ICU nurses and intensivists who deal with several ICU locations, providing both consultations and hands-on instructions on how to care for the critically ill.
They make use of algorithms and video technology to care for remote patients more proactively. Telemedicine programs each differ in their design, workflow, and even the evaluation of outcomes.
Because it is a booming industry in healthcare technology right now, telemedicine is bound to continue well into the future as well. It has shown that delivering higher patient outcomes and improving family-centered care is a job that it can handle quite well, especially for populations that would otherwise be unable to receive such expert care.
This has the added benefit of patients undergoing specialized procedures and examinations without having to stress about traveling to receive these services. In the future, however, recruiting the best neonatal nurses will be a difficult job due to the fierce competition that will arise.
Nurses will not only need to be highly qualified but also be extremely tech-savvy to keep up with the rapid advancements in medicine. Therefore, knowledge about the technology being used will have to be stellar. This challenge may not be as daunting for millennial nurses though as these generations have been growing up on technology and it seems to come very naturally to them.
The future of telemedicine looks promising because it not only helps remote and unreachable patients but also because it reduces costs by a margin.
Learn more about how neonatal telehealth can benefit you