Telehealth Safeguards Newborns

Some precious lives start out in jeopardy, like the 10% of newborns with an Apgar respiration score of one (irregular breathing) or zero (no breathing at all). Most of these babies can be resuscitated easily, even in a small community hospital, but about one case in a thousand requires advanced intervention that only a highly trained neonatologist can provide.

Telehealth is helping deliver that expertise, as documented recently in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. For twenty months, Mayo’s division of neonatal medicine worked with six health systems to provide 84 newborn consultations using telehealth technology.

Dr. Jennifer Fang, a fellow in Mayo’s neonatal program, said, “Following a complicated delivery, a newborn’s outcome is associated with the quality of care provided during the first minutes of life. In Mayo’s telehealth study, the enhanced access to neonatologists – who could guide the local care team through the resuscitation – allowed one-third of the babies to stay with their families in the local hospital.”

Providers at the community hospitals gave the telehealth consultations high scores for clinical teamwork and quality of care. “These results speak to the acceptability and clinical impact of this type of telehealth project in community hospitals,” added Fang.

We’ll never know how many of these small town, one-in-a-thousand babies will grow up to become adults who change our world. But now newborns around the globe – in both rural and underserved urban locations – can get a better start thanks to telehealth. And their parents can breathe a little easier, too.

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