We examined records of all admissions to an isolated community neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in California between 2001 and 2006. We also reviewed the echocardiograms for diagnosis, disposition of patient and necessity for transport. In 2004, a telemedicine link (mainly store-and-forward) was established to a university children's hospital (UCH) 290 km away. The number of NICU patients having an echocardiogram increased from 280 (27% of 1029 admissions) to 385 (40% of 963, P = <0.001) after telemedicine became available. There was an increase in the proportion of normal studies, from 31% to 37% (P = 0.03), and an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with cardiac pathology from 192 (19% of all admissions) to 241 (25%, P < 0.001). Twenty-four patients were transferred for cardiac reasons during each three-year period; however seven pre-telemedicine transfers were avoidable, compared with two post-telemedicine transfers (P = 0.06). There was a change in referral pattern (65% to the UCH pre-telemedicine, compared with 78% post-telemedicine) although it was not significant (P = 0.10). Thus the availability of the telecardiology link was associated with increases in the utilization of echocardiography, in the proportion of normal studies, and in the percentage of neonates diagnosed with cardiac pathology without an increase in the number transferred for cardiac reasons. There was a reduction in unnecessary transfers and a strengthened relationship with the centre providing the telecardiology service.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics