A lot of space has been devoted to how telehealth benefits elders and elder care facilities. What about human beings at the opposite end of life’s journey? That’s right, I’m referring to infants. Just imagine all of the pediatric specialists previously unavailable to rural doctors and hospitals.
Just as it does for seniors, telemedicine minimizes any need for babies to be transferred to other facilities. One does need to delve too deep into the ‘circle of life’ metaphor to understand the fragility that elders and newborns share. Thanks to technology that brings the experts to the patients, it only makes sense for these two groups to receive immediate attention.
Interestingly enough, telehealth technology won’t necessarily be the most sophisticated in a neonatal intensive care unit. It may, however, be the most mobile. Some neonatal intensive care units are already equipped with webcam and video tele-conference stations that can be wheeled anywhere in the hospital. Those aforementioned specialists gain unprecedented access to newborns in need. You have neonatologists, pediatric cardiologists, pediatric geneticists and pediatric surgeons.
One area of specialty that deserves special mention is pediatric cardiology. Is there really anything more profoundly precious than a baby’s heartbeat? Just ask a mom. Before unnecessary hospital transfers, more immediate concerns can arise when it comes to newborn emergency care. Right off the bat, a misdiagnosis can lead to a baby being undertreated, which can then lead to the wrong therapies being applied. Via technology, specialist can properly educate specialists in administering neonatal echocardiograms and detecting congenital heart defects. Not only does all this render those hospital transfers unnecessary but it definitely improves chances of proper treatment.
Putting critical technology aside, newborn health complications take a tremendous toll on families. It must never be forgotten that all parents dream of healthy childbirth and anything short of it is their nightmare. If telehealth can contribute to their peace of mind, its tools should be put to use without question. Some hospitals are doing just that, rather than reserving the technology for specialist consults. With video links, parents can not only check up on their babies but sleep alongside them as well.
Nothing can take away from the amazing work that rural pediatricians have done since long before the idea for telehealth emerged. However, just enough difference in altitude can mean challenges beyond the capabilities of the most capable physicians. That’s just one aspect of the sort of pressure that doctors in remote areas have faced. To them, technology means access, access to colleagues and most importantly, access to knowledge, knowledge can save newborn lives.