Lloydminster Hospital is now benefiting from new technology that links its physicians directly to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, giving access to urgent advice for newborns without having to take little ones out of the city.
Alberta Health Service’s (AHS) Telehealth video-conferencing system links rural healthcare providers with the Stollery’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where an on call neonatologist can view the infants through a high-definition camera and monitor and offer advice, including whether a newborn should be transported to an NICU with a higher level of care.
“It’s wonderful, it provides a lot of safety, we’ve used it four, maybe five times now just to either consult the neonatologist in Edmonton on a concern about a baby, or mostly what it is, is if we are concerned about a baby and think it needs to be transported out, it gives the team in Edmonton a visual,” said Lisa Yushchyshyn, manager of the maternity unit at Lloydminster Hospital.
“They can see the baby, they can see measures we’ve taken and it’s not just kind of taking it on our word, it’s more making it an overall picture and decide whether to triage that way.”
Yushchyshyn said in one instance a baby was having trouble, getting upset and its limbs would turn blue, causing worry among staff there was heart trouble.
The Telehealth system was used several times to touch base with the Stollery where professionals were able to reassure the baby’s parents, watch the child’s episodes, and view vital signs before determining the issue could be taken care of in Lloydminster without transporting the infant to Edmonton.
If this same issue would have happened before June, when the hospital received the technology, staff may have had to call a transport team to take the baby, which would have come with a fairly expensive price tag to AHS and the provincial government in general.
“Or the other option would have been to make an outpatient appointment for the baby, the parents would have had to drive to Edmonton, see the neonatologist, and have all that stress and anxiety in the meantime while waiting for the appointment and whatever else,” said Yushchyshyn. “So it brought down a bunch of stress, that’s for sure.”
She added that hospital staff try to keep the parents as involved as possible anytime something is being done with a baby, and new parents have been really grateful for this extra resource at the hospital.
Moms and dads are often in the room where the video-conference is happening and Yushchyshyn said they’re amazed while they sit there interacting with a neonatologist, who’s a pediatrician specializing in the first 30 days of life, getting the same advice one would if they were actually at the Stollery.
And as great as it’s been to have the service so far, when she’s really anticipating it to come in handy is the winter months, when driving to and from Edmonton goes from an inconvenience to potential danger due to road conditions.
“As we get into worse and worse weather, there are frequent times when the team can’t come to us or they have to come by ground because the ceiling’s low or we’re in the middle of a blizzard,” she said.
“So having that connectivity with them (Stollery) that they can see us, they can help us run a code if they need to, they can help us run a resuscitation, that’s where I’m really anticipating it coming to shine.”