With the advent of telemedicine services, healthcare providers have access to neonatal specialists round the clock, providing remote consultation for infant care using live video and audio.
Newborn or neonatal health primarily focuses on the health of newborn babies within the initial 29-30 days of life. Neonatal care is extremely important for babies as during this period several health concerns can arise which may include respiratory problems, sepsis, low birth weight, preterm birth, infections and low blood sugar. Near about 85 per cent of neonatal deaths in India occur due to Sepsis, Birth Asphyxia or Low Birth Weight. Also, In India, around 1 million babies die every year before they even complete their 1st month of life, contributing to one-fourth of the world's overall burden.
In a lot of cases, it has been observed that lack of in-person assistance and transportation of babies to neonatal facilities pose serious risks to the life of a child and can also be a costly affair for healthcare providers. With the advent of telemedicine services, healthcare providers have access to neonatal specialists round the clock, providing remote consultation for infant care using live video and audio. This can offer thorough monitoring of the symptoms and help healthcare providers to identify signs of deterioration in a child's condition early and respond to these promptly.
Ways through which Telemedicine can Benefit Neonatal Care
Timely Access to Specialised Care
One of the biggest advantages of telemedicine is that it allows easy access to specialised care without the need to travel long distances. According to reports, out of 264 paediatricians produced annually in India, nearly half of them are available for public sector service since a large chunk of these specialists either emigrate or get attracted towards private-sector jobs in urban setups. Remote monitoring is especially useful in the neonatal period and allows neonatal specialists to remotely monitor patients and communicate with families.
Telemedicine not only allows healthcare providers to effectively diagnose and treat neonatal babies from their offsite locations, but on-site care providers and patient families also report feeling well connected to the offsite specialists and feel that their queries are all answered appropriately. By increasing access to neonatal specialists, telemedicine can reduce the number of unnecessary neonatal transfers and offer immediate expertise. Whether addressing a critical delivery or treating a newborn with a low Apgar respiration score, onsite healthcare providers can work with remote neonatologists to stabilize the patient.
Reduced Exposure to Infections
Researchers have found out that setting up a telemedicine connection in the rooms of neonatal babies under strict isolation positively facilitates inpatient care and interactions with families and support services. Video telemedicine services also help reduce the number of medical personnel with potential exposure to infection. This, in turn, reduces costs, decreases the use of personal protective equipment and increases PPE availability for use in other areas.
Enhanced Parental Self-Efficacy
Telehealth can be a useful tool for patient families after they leave the hospital. As per a study, parents feel a positive experience with remote neonatal home care, where they are given access to video conferencing and electronic resources. Many parents believe that videoconferencing is less stressful than in-home visits and still offers adequate care for neonatal babies. Telehealth programs can also result in increased parental self-efficacy and breastfeeding rates, which can have positive implications for long-term newborn health.
Telemedicine Success Stories
Recently, in a distinct feat of emergency delivery at an altitude of more than 12,000 feet in Kaza, Apollo TeleHealth showcased their sheer dedication, commitment, humane approach, and capability to save 2 lives - a mother and a child in a critical state. While the mother developed pedal oedema, the baby had severely low blood sugar levels and suffered from difficulty in breathing. However, with the help of Apollo TeleHealth's tele-emergency services, the situation was kept under control till the time they were shifted to a hospital with all the adequate facilities.
The situation is again a reflection of how telemedicine can tackle the gaps in our healthcare and save lives. The most well-trained and experienced doctors are now able to treat patients in far-flung or distant parts of India through innovative use of technology.
Apollo TeleHealth also brought easy access to specialised healthcare for early detection and prevention of Dermatophytosis in a remote village of Gujarat.
In a remote tribal village – Tuver in Gujarat (population 950 – 1200), dermatological conditions have been a major concern for the villagers. One such dermatological condition identified among the population of the village was “Dermatophytosis”, which are fungal infections of keratin in skin and nails. Since this is a highly contagious fungal infection that can spread by skin-to-skin contact or by touching an infected object or animal, it quickly turned out to be a menace for the village community. However, with effective intervention through Apollo TeleHealth’s teleconsultation services, it was possible to stop the spread in its tracks and offer timely care.
Telemedicine can prove to be a vital lifeline for neonatal babies. Its ability to offer immediate specialized care not only elevates care delivery across a neonatal unit but also creates a healthier foundation for every baby’s future. With the number of preterm births on the rise, it’s time for every hospital and clinic to put virtual innovation in the service of saving new lives.
By Mr Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo TeleHealth