Multicenter study assessing physicians' and transport teams' attitudes and expectations about utilizing telemedicine to manage critical neonatal transports

J Telemed Telecare. 2022 Jun 28:1357633X221104563. doi: 10.1177/1357633X221104563. Online ahead of print.


Background: Managing critically ill neonates has unique challenges, and the transport team plays an important role in stabilizing and facilitating the transfer of these neonates from lower-level nurseries to tertiary centers, and the use of telemedicine in transport (tele-transport) can potentially benefit patient care. We conducted a multicenter study to assess the readiness for utilizing telemedicine as an adjunct to guide the care of critically ill neonates among physicians and transport team members (TTMs). This is the first multicenter study that explored physicians' and TTMs' perceptions of telemedicine usage and its value in neonatal transport.

Methods: A confidential, voluntary survey on pre-implementation attitudes toward telemedicine usage during neonatal transport was conducted as part of a quality improvement initiative. This survey involved physicians and TTMs from four academic institutions whose responses were entered into an online survey using REDCap®. The survey inquired about satisfaction with the current practice of phone consultation and the perception of using telemedicine to optimize the management of neonates during transport.

Results : The overall response rate for the survey was 60.1%; 82 of 127 (64.6%) physicians and 64 of 116 (55.2%) TTMs responded to the surveys. Half of the physicians and less than one-fourth of the TTMs had prior experience with telemedicine other than that used on neonatal transport. TTMs expressed greater concern about the inconvenience of video (55% vs. physicians 35% agree or strongly agree) and its time consumption (84% vs. physicians 50%). More than 70% of physicians and less than half of TTMs endorsed the potential for added value and quality improvement with video capability. Almost half of TTMs reported concern about video calls reducing their autonomy in patient care. Physicians expressed confidence in management decisions they would make after video calls (72% confident or very confident) and less confidence (49%) about both the phone assessment by TTMs and their decisions based on phone assessment. In contrast, TTMs were confident or very confident (94%) in both sharing their assessment over the phone and executing patient management after a phone call, compared with 70% for decisions made after video calls.

Conclusions : Physicians and TTMs had distinct opinions on the use of telemedicine during neonatal transport. Physicians were more likely than TTMs to agree with statements about the potential for improving quality of care, while TTMs were more likely than physicians to say video calls would be time-consuming and inconvenient. We speculate some differences may stem from the TTMs' concern about losing their autonomy. Therefore, during implementation, it is critical for physicians and TTMs to agree on a shared mental model of indications for telemedicine during transport and its value to the patient care.

Keywords: Teleconsulting; telecare; telehealth; telemedicine.