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New telehealth program to enhance NICU care in Utah

Intermountain Primary Hospital recently launched a new telehealth program that allows for enhanced and more accessible healthcare for babies in Utah.

Nurses, neonatologists and advanced practice providers in the Neuro Neonatal Intensive Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital worked together to create a program that incorporates a telehealth platform, as well as in-person bedside care to enhance the overall experience and care given to babies and their families.

Dr. Betsy Ostrander is an associate professor of pediatric neurology at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital. She is not only directing this new program, but is also providing direct consultation when entering the program.

“Before, we would bring these high-risk babies to Salt Lake City, and provide that expert care. And what we realized during the pandemic was that we could provide that care at the bedside using telehealth technology, so that those families could stay close to their support structures, and other children and other family members,” explained Dr. Ostrander.

This interactive care allows for families to directly interact with a neonatologist even though they are at entirely different locations, giving them more information about the care their child is receiving.

“Previously, I might talk on the phone with the neonatologist, but families didn't really get to ask me questions directly, they didn't get to see me interacting with the neonatologist,” Dr. Ostrander said.

While the program is currently in place at four neonatal intensive care units in Utah and one in Montana, the goal is to eventually service all ICU babies in Utah and potentially surrounding states by expanding the program. They also hope to expand the service to at-home care once they are no longer in the NICU.

“We want to be able to provide telehealth support for neurodevelopment after families go home, so that as soon as they leave the NICU — whether or not we need to see them for six weeks or three months after they go home — that families aren't immediately turning around and putting a very small baby in a car and driving six hours to see us,” said Dr. Ostrander.

Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.