The San Juan Regional Medical Center in New Mexico has partnered with Presbyterian Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team to provide virtual video consultations via an Amwell telemedicine cart. The partnership enables neonatologists to provide specialised care for newborns from miles away, keeping infants close to home and avoiding long travel times for families. The collaboration also supports San Juan Regional’s plans to grow its nursery and paediatric service, which is crucial in addressing maternal and infant care challenges in rural America, where over 50% of rural counties have no hospital-based obstetrical services.
Telehealth is a vital tool in addressing maternal and infant care challenges in rural America. The Commonwealth Fund’s report of 2021 indicated that more than 50% of rural counties have no hospital-based obstetrical services, which causes over 50% of rural women to travel for over 30 minutes to reach a facility that offers these services. A study published in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2022 has noted that the lack of maternal healthcare access in rural areas can result in various adverse maternal and infant outcomes, including premature birth, low birth weight, out of hospital births, maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and increased risk of postpartum depression.
Moreover, given the increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes in rural areas, there are alarmingly few neonatal intensive care beds in community hospitals nationwide. Recent data from the American Hospital Association shows that out of 789,354 staffed beds in community hospitals, only 23,096 are neonatal intensive care beds.
The San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico, has partnered with Presbyterian Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team to address the lack of neonatal intensive care access and provide higher-acuity care for newborns. The partnership has improved neonatal care in Farmington.
The partnership between San Juan Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Hospital has been ongoing for years, with San Juan Regional clinicians often calling Presbyterian specialists over the phone to discuss patient care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the partnership a more formal, video-based arrangement. The San Juan Regional purchased an Amwell telemedicine cart to facilitate virtual video consultations with Presbyterian’s NICU team. The carts feature cameras, remote camera control, and a touchscreen interface. Some versions have smart sensors and adaptive audio capabilities.
In addition to video-based telehealth consultations with Presbyterian neonatologists, the partnership provides San Juan Regional’s clinicians with ongoing medical education. Once a quarter, a multidisciplinary group, including nurse educators and respiratory therapists, is brought to Farmington. These clinicians add their knowledge to the lectures and help build deeper connections with the San Juan Regional team.
The patient care advantages of the telehealth partnership are numerous. One of the most significant is the ability to keep infants close to home. In addition, having a newborn is disruptive in and of itself. Add to that long travel times to faraway care sites, and the disruptions grow manifold. Telehealth enables neonatologists to comfortably see the baby and speak with the care teams on-site, providing specialized care from miles away. It also enables the Presbyterian NICU team to establish stronger connections with the loved ones of those they are helping care for. The families can speak with the neonatologists caring for their infants from afar via the telemedicine cart.
Moreover, the telehealth partnership has supported San Juan Regional’s plans to grow its nursery and pediatric service. A pediatric unit in a community hospital that gets shut down has significant downstream effects. These pressures push all the pressure onto children’s hospitals, which they find themselves in a difficult position to care for all those kids.
Leave a Reply