Background: The use of telemedicine to provide care for critically ill newborn infants has significantly evolved over the last two decades. Children's Health System of Texas and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center established TeleNICU, the first teleneonatology program in Texas. Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of Tele Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (TeleNICU) in extending quaternary neonatal care to more rural areas of Texas. Materials and methods: We conducted a retrospective review of TeleNICU consultations from September 2013 to October 2018. Charts were reviewed for demographic data, reasons for consultation, and consultation outcomes. Diagnoses were classified as medical, surgical, or combined. Consultation outcomes were categorized into transferred or retained. Transport cost savings were estimated based on the distance from the hub site and the costs for ground transportation. Results: TeleNICU had one hub (Level IV) and nine spokes (Levels I–III) during the study period. A total of 132 direct consultations were completed during the study period. Most consultations were conducted with Level III units (81%) followed by level I (13%) and level II (6%) units. Some common diagnoses included prematurity (57%), respiratory distress (36%), congenital anomalies (25%), and neonatal surgical emergencies (13%). For all encounters, 54% of the patients were retained at the spoke sites, resulting in an estimated cost savings of USD0.9 million in transport costs alone. The likelihood of retention at spoke sites was significantly higher for medical diagnoses compared to surgical diagnoses (89% vs. 11%). Conclusion: Telemedicine effectively expands access to quaternary neonatal care for more rural communities, helps in the triage of neonatal transfers, promotes family centered care, and significantly reduces health care costs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics