Objective: To investigate the feasibility of 'tele-rounding' in the neonatal intensive care.
Methods: In this prospective study utilizing telemedicine technology in the NICU for daily patient bedside rounds ('tele-rounds'), twenty pairs of neonates were matched according to gestational age, diagnoses, and disease severity. One patient was cared for by the on-site NICU team lead by an on-site neonatologist. The other patient was cared for by the on-site team but led by an off-site neonatologist using a remote-controlled robot. Patient rounding data, clinical outcomes, length of stay, and hospital costs were compared between the two groups. Parents and staff were also surveyed about their satisfaction with telemedicine.
Results: Except for one parameter, no significant differences in care or outcomes were found between patients cared for by either neonatologist. The exception was the time the off-site neonatologist spent on the patient encounter compared to the on-site neonatologist (median [interquartile range]), (5 minutes [5, 6] vs. 8 minutes [7, 10.5], p = 0.002). This difference was due primarily to time needed to operate and maneuver the robot or occasionally to slower or dropped connection to the Internet. There were positive perceptions of telemedicine among both parents and NICU staff.
Conclusion: As long as direct bedside care providers are available, remote-controlled, robotic telemedicine technology can be utilized by neonatologists to perform daily patient rounds in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Keywords: Neonates; neonatal intensive care; remote controlled robot; telemedicine.
© The Author(s) 2015.