GARDNER, MA — The LaChance Maternity Center, a Newsweek’s Best Maternity Hospital for 2020 and 2021 at Heywood Healthcare, is now providing a telehealth service for its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) through the utilization of Tele-NICU.
The Tele-NICU device provides the help from highly experienced neonatologists at a moment’s notice; allowing smaller hospitals without the resources of higher-level facilities to provide immediate care to infants.
What is Tele-NICU?
According to Lynn Shepard, a maternal/child practice leader at Heywood Healthcare, the Tele-NICU is a high-tech audio visual cart that allows the health institution to emergently contact a neonatologist at UMass Memorial Health Care any time of the day or night.
“It allows the UMass neonatologists to interact with the providers here at Heywood Hospital in real time. The neonatologist is able to view and assess the infant and the monitors and help guide the actions of the practitioners and care provided to the infant here at Heywood Hospital,” said Shepard.
“Uses of the Tele-NICU device may include infants requiring resuscitation, infants presenting with abnormal physical exams and delivery room management for critical infants,” she added.
The Four Levels of Neonatal Care
Neonatal care ranges from basic newborn care to the highest level neonatal intensive care. According to Shepard, there are four levels of neonatal care:
A Level I nursery is considered to be a “Well Newborn Nursery” and provides care for healthy full-term babies or for those born close to their due date. These nurseries provide routine care and are equipped to stabilize and prepare babies who require a higher level of care for transfer.
A Level II nursery offers “Special Newborn Care” and can manage babies born at greater than 32 weeks gestation, or full-term babies who may require close observation or who have problems that are expected to resolve quickly.
A Level III nursery (NICU) cares for the tiniest and sickest of newborns.
Finally, a Level IV nursery (NICU) provides for the highest level of NICU care, often caring for babies born at the lowest age of viability or micro preemies. Level IV nurseries have on-site surgical services for complex congenital or acquired conditions.
Heywood Hospital offers a Level I community-based maternal-newborn service and is capable of managing both uncomplicated pregnancies and complicated pregnancies that do not require resources of advanced technologies.
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“Heywood Hospital provides for the care and management of well newborns and stable infants born at 35 weeks gestation. We do not routinely provide care to laboring patients at less than 36 weeks gestation or to infants born at less than 35 weeks gestation. However, on occasion, a patient may require additional services that are outside of our regular scope of care,” said Shepard.
The Tele-NICU device at the LaChance Maternity Center in Heywood Healthcare.
The collaboration between Heywood Healthcare with UMass Memorial
According to Shepard, the LaChance Maternity Center has “a long-standing collaboration” with UMass Memorial.
“UMass Memorial has the only Level III NICU in the region and provides both high-risk obstetrical and neonatal care. UMass Memorial hosts quarterly outreach programs for the staff at Heywood Hospital,” Shepard said.
When asked about the need for the Tele-NICU device at Heywood Healthcare, Shepard said that the push for the device was a collaborative decision between UMass Memorial and Heywood Healthcare as it will allow the latter to better care for its “youngest and most vulnerable patients.”
Tele-NICU is cost effective
Usually, better technology could also mean that it will incur a higher cost — the Tele-NICU device included. According to Shepard, the LaChance Maternity Center does pay an annual technology fee for the cart and its related maintenance.
However, “The benefit of being able to provide this service to the community far outweighs the cost associated with the Tele-NICU cart,” she said.