How Telehealth Has Improved and Transformed Neonatal Health

Telehealth

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Telehealth is an umbrella term for healthcare services delivered remotely. It includes telemedicine, remote monitoring, and telecare. The increasing availability of internet-enabled devices and video calling apps has made it easier to connect with a healthcare professional from home or wherever you are. Telehealth has many benefits for neonatal care and has helped to improve outcomes for premature babies and their mothers. It’s not just about remote monitoring but the ability to share information faster than ever. 

Some mothers find giving birth very stressful, especially if they don’t have access to proper neonatal care. Recent statistics show that around 10% of all babies born in the United States are preterm. 8.6% of all babies are underweight, and 20% of infant deaths are due to congenital disabilities. Around 14.5% of mothers don’t receive any neonatal treatment.

Many birthing centers do not have on-site neonatal services. If the infant requires immediate medical attention, providers may need to wait for transport teams to arrive. Unnecessarily, many providers will transport infants to local specialists, increasing costs and stress for both mother and child.

Some providers can use neonatal Telehealth instead of waiting to transport newborns to the neonatal facility or waiting in line for assistance. The ability to consult remotely with neonatal specialists via live video and audio will allow providers to have immediate access to the expertise needed to stabilize and care for the infant.

Remote Monitoring

Telehealth’s first and most important use in neonatal care is remote monitoring. Remote monitoring uses sensors and data collected from patients to indicate their physiological status. Data is collected on vital signs, such as heart rate and respiratory rate, as well as environmental factors, such as room temperature and light levels. In a neonatal setting, sensors are attached to an infant’s skin or are integrated into the baby’s clothing. In a hospital setting, these sensors may be used to remotely monitor patients who are incubated (contained in a small, controlled environment), on a ventilator, or in need of specialized care. There are several benefits to remote monitoring. Remote monitoring can help prevent infection in babies who are too small to be separated from their mothers during breastfeeding. It can also decrease the need for painful and disruptive blood draws. The detailed information collected by remote sensors can help nurses, and doctors better understand the needs of each neonate. Remote monitoring can also reduce the need for unnecessary medical interventions, as well as the risk of misdiagnosis due to a lack of accurate information.

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Helping to Prevent Premature Birth

Many premature babies are born too soon due to complications during the mother’s pregnancy. Many factors, such as a low supply of amniotic fluid, high blood pressure, or infection, can cause this. In some cases, the cause of prematurity is unknown. Remote monitoring can help to prevent prematurity by identifying risk factors for early preterm birth and referring mothers to specialists for appropriate care. Remote monitoring can also help to identify signs of infection and warn staff if a mom’s condition is becoming dangerous to her baby. It can help to prevent premature birth and reduce the risk of severe complications for both mom and baby.

Helping Moms and Babies Breathe Better

Respiratory complications are a significant cause of death in premature babies. Premature lungs are not fully developed and are less effective at filtering and removing carbon dioxide from the blood. Babies who are too small to be separated from their mothers can be connected to a nasal cannula to help them breathe more effectively. This is done with a device placed on the mother’s abdomen and connected with a tube to her baby’s nose. This method allows the baby to receive the proper amount of oxygen while also getting the carbon dioxide that they need to grow. This device will enable the mother to continue breastfeeding and bonding with her baby while receiving proper nutrition.

Telemedicine for Care and Treatment of Preemies

When the need arises, the transition to a hospital setting is often prompted by complications, such as infections, blood pressure issues, or difficulty with feeding. For premature babies, this transition can be a very stressful time. Preemies who are still too small to be separated from their mothers receive much of their care and treatment from nurses and doctors in their mother’s hospital rooms. While this transition is often necessary, it can disrupt breastfeeding, cause unnecessary stress for mothers and their families, and slow the process of bonding with the baby. Preemies who are more than 35 weeks gestational age can transition to a telemedicine setup instead of having to be separated from the mother. This setup allows the staff to deliver care remotely, such as administering medication or connecting drains, while allowing the baby to remain with the mother. This setup enables the staff to monitor the baby’s condition better while still allowing the mother to feed her baby and take part in her recovery.

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Virtual Doulas for Bonding, Comfort, and Confidence

Babies who are too small to be separated from their mothers are often placed in an incubator or isolated to help them grow and thrive. These incubators are sterile and contain minimal items since premature babies cannot be exposed to many materials. While these settings are ideal for the baby’s health and safety, they can be uncomfortable and stressful for mothers. These incubators are very sterile and often lack the comforts that moms need, such as privacy. Mothers who are breastfeeding may also feel uncomfortable being exposed to such a sterile environment. Remote monitoring can help to alleviate some of these concerns by letting the mom control the level of privacy and comfort in the room. Breastfeeding mothers can also be connected via Telehealth to receive breastfeeding support from lactation consultants.

Conclusion

Telehealth has been shown to improve neonatal health in many ways. Remote monitoring can help to prevent prematurity, identify potential respiratory complications, and avoid infection. Telemedicine can help premature babies transition from the isolate and receive care while remaining with their mothers. Virtual doulas can help mothers feel more comfortable and confident in the neonatal intensive care unit. Remote monitoring has many benefits for neonatal care and has helped to improve outcomes for premature babies and their mothers. From monitoring newborns after they’ve been discharged from the hospital to helping parents support their at-home newborns, Telehealth is making it easier for neonatal patients to get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it. 

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New technology is significantly improving how these infants are cared for, reducing risks and complications for both mom and baby. Telehealth has positively impacted neonatal care and will continue to do so moving forward.

Hucu.ai proudly partners with innovative telehealth solution leaders, including Zoom. Hucu.ai provides unique, convenient telehealth features for care providers and patients, such as telehealth flags, meeting ID attachments, and telehealth video sessions. Hucu.ai is a HIPAA compliant healthcare solution connecting providers with patients through secure video conferencing or two-way text messaging. It has the most secure cloud-based data storage fully integrated with EHR that can be accessed from anywhere.

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