HONESDALE, PA — In March of 2017, the New Beginnings birth center at Wayne Memorial Hospital (WMH) announced the introduction of some exciting new technology: “tele-neonatalogy.” …
HONESDALE, PA — In March of 2017, the New Beginnings birth center at Wayne Memorial Hospital (WMH) announced the introduction of some exciting new technology: “tele-neonatalogy.”
Using a dedicated, secure, high-speed Internet connection and advanced audiovisual and telemedicine equipment, specialists at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Lehigh Valley Hospital—Cedar Crest in Allentown, more than 100 miles away, can now examine high-risk newborns at WMH remotely, in real time. They can observe the child in high-resolution video imagery, and listen to cardiac and pulmonary sounds through a stethoscope. After assessing the infant’s condition, they can consult with the WMH staff, recommend treatment and, if necessary, arrange for transfer.
At the time it was projected that of the nearly 500 babies born at WMH each year, at least 20 would benefit from this specialized technology. Nearly half of the births at WMH have the potential for being high risk. Among the medical conditions that might warrant use of the tele-neonatology unit are prematurity, low birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, birth defects, sepsis, incomplete lung development and perinatal asphyxia. Using the telemedicine system reduces the likelihood of the physical, emotional and financial stresses that could be caused by an unnecessary transfer to a distant NICU.
The system is funded in part by a grant from the USDA Rural Utilities Services’ Distance Learning and Telemedicine program.
“Tele-medicine is a great way for rural hospitals to bring specialties to their communities that they might not have access to otherwise,” said Lisa Champeau, public relations manager for WMH. “It’s very difficult recruiting specialists to rural areas.” Champeau added that the emergency department at WMH has also implemented a tele-stroke system in partnership with Geisinger Medical Center/Danville, with expansion to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) planned for the future.
“This is a wonderful addition to our hospital and our community,” said James Pettinato, RN, director of patient care services. “In cases where a birth is predictably high risk, the mother usually delivers in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit on site. But many births are not predictable, and we are now in a better position to treat the baby when it’s born.”
“There are very few rural community hospitals such as ours lucky enough to have this kind of resource,” said Janice Pettinato, one of New Beginnings’ clinical coordinators. “We are truly thankful to Lehigh for working with us to set this up.”