A new affiliation between Bothwell Regional Health Center and Children’s Mercy Kansas City means Bothwell’s tiniest patients will receive faster specialist care.
The two health systems collaboratively launched a telemedicine program, which virtually connects staff and newborns in Bothwell’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with neonatologists at Children’s Mercy when needed.
Hollie Dubroc, Bothwell Women’s Health and NICU director, said the goal of the program is to provide specialist care to babies in the NICU and reduce the number who need to be transferred from the hospital.
“In 2019, 26 babies were transferred from Bothwell to a higher level of care, and in 2020 that number was six,” she said. “Through this affiliation, Bothwell pediatricians communicate through video with Children’s Mercy neonatologists. They will be able to see and hear the babies, as well as ask and answer questions and provide guidance to our providers in real-time.”
One of these providers is pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Lind, who explained the technology uses a familiar device.
“We have an iPad in the NICU to connect with Children’s Mercy,” she said. “Information about mom and baby is sent to them and then we use an app with a televideo connection to the neonatologist on call there.”
Lind said there are several types of health conditions that would cause Bothwell to consult with specialists.
“I expect we will use the telemedicine program most often for babies who are premature or in respiratory distress,” she said. “I also anticipate using it for second opinions for less serious issues such as rashes or other abnormal physical exam findings.”
Children’s Mercy is the only level 4 NICU in the region, meaning it provides the highest level of advanced care for newborns. The Neonatology program has also been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top neonatology programs in the nation.
Dr. Steve Olsen, Division Director of Neonatology at Children’s Mercy said, “We are excited to be working with Bothwell to help provide additional support to their excellent clinical team with the goal to keep babies healthy so mom and baby can stay together in Sedalia.”
Lind said access to NICU care has been shown to improve health outcomes; however, specialists are difficult to find in rural areas and care is expensive.
“This partnership is important because it allows us to get a neonatologist involved in the care of our sickest babies quickly and helps streamline the transport process for babies that need higher level NICU care,” she said. “It should also allow us to keep more babies here with the neonatologists at Children's Mercy involved as consultants instead of transporting them to their NICU. This will allow mother and baby to be together.”
Dubroc said the two hospitals conducted a mock run-through using the technology in November and that fortunately, Bothwell has not had to use it yet.
“We’re all comforted knowing that when we do have a baby that needs extra care, we have the technology to call on specialists quickly,” she said.