Healthy Me PA sat down with Michele Churney, RN, James Pettinato, RN, and Marybeth Dastalfo, RN, at Wayne Memorial Hospital to learn about tele-neonatology. Churney is the clinical services manager; Pettinato is the director of patient care Services; and Dastalfo is the clinical coordinator.
Wayne Memorial Hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania has recently begun using telemedicine and advanced tele-neonatology equipment to provide specialized care to new and expecting mothers and their babies. The service gives staff almost instant access to neonatal intensive care specialists at Lehigh Valley Hospital 104 away. Of the 475 babies born each year at Wayne Memorial Hospital, 20 will benefit from this specialized neonatal care.
What is tele-neonatology?
Tele-neonatology uses telecommunications, such as a phone or video call, to provide direct, real-time access to neonatal specialists at other hospitals.
The service allows infants whose parents live in sparsely populated rural areas to receive care from specialists located in another, often distant, medical facility. Depending on a baby’s health issues, this virtual assessment and specialize care can avoid the emotional stress of transferring the infant to a faraway medical center.
How does tele-neonatology work?
When a high-risk birth occurs or a serious medical condition arises, such as prematurity, low birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, or a birth defect, staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital can contact Lehigh Valley neonatal specialists using a direct line on a secure network.
With this audio-visual connection, the specialist can see a high-quality image of the baby and listen through a stethoscope for cardiac and respiratory complications. This technology allows for neonatal specialists miles away to do real-time assessments, provide consultation, and, if necessary, recommend transfer.
“We FaceTimed someone from Philadelphia when we had a critical baby here, and through FaceTime the neonatologist was able to guide a physician to do a chest exam,” Churney said. “The technology is so defined, they can identify where the physician needs to enter into the chest.”
Why is there a need?
In this rural community, nearly half of the births seen are considered high-risk, according to the staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
With infants, and anyone in critical condition, time is of the essence as their condition can worsen rapidly. Having expert consultation available with the click of a button can save lives.
“Telemedicine bridges the gap, shortens the care delivery down, and brings the consultation to the patient right at their bedside,” Pettinato said.