The first 1,000 days of a child’s life refer to the period between conception and the age of two years (24 months). It is also considered as the foundation period when a child’s optimum health and development across the lifespan is established. Not only does the child’s ability to survive, depend on proper nourishment and care during the 1000-day window, but is also important to develop a child’s mental health.

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (2019-21), India’s total fertility rate (TFR) has dipped to 2.0 ie., below the replacement level of 2.1, as per UN Population Division. The neonatal mortality rate is at 24.9 deaths per 1000 live births, whereas infant or under 2 mortality rates is 35.2 deaths per 1000 lives.

Around 85% of total neonatal deaths are caused due to prematurity, low birth weight (LBW), diarrhea, sepsis, or birth asphyxia. Apart from malnutrition and unhealthy environmental condition, multiple cases have observed inadequate in-person help, and transportation of babies to neonatal institutions pose major dangers to a child’s life.

With the introduction of Telemedicine platforms in the healthcare sector, both the new parents and healthcare professionals have received access to better neonatal care and an enhanced outcome. Parents and neonatal caretakers can connect with neonatal specialists round the clock through live video, audio, and chats. The platform also provides room for detailed monitoring of symptoms that will aid healthcare providers in detecting early signals of deterioration in a child’s condition and responding appropriately.

How telemedicine support is enhancing neonatal care?

  1. Uplifted parenteral efficiency of neonatal care:

Telehealthcare is proving to be an effective solution for post-partum and neonatal care after the return from the hospital. Video chats and audio consultation is reported to be less stressful than visiting physically visiting doctors in-clinic. According to a study, the positive experience was reported by both parents and doctors. An increase in parenteral self-efficacy offers positive implications on breastfeeding rates and long-term effects on newborns’ future health.

2. On-time access to specialized care:- Getting specialized care for the newborn’s health concerns at right time has been the difficult part of neonatal care for new parents. Reaching out to specialized doctors due to unavailability, geographic barrier, or time constraints made neonatal care preferably more difficult, especially in rural or remote
areas.

According to the latest Rural Health Statics Survey reports by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a decrease of 79% pediatrician doctors in community health centers (CHCs) is observed and the major reason is attraction towards joining the private sector, practicing privately, or emigrating.

With Telemedicine, also known as virtual consultation platforms, location and traveling hurdles have been overcome. It allows easy access to specialized care without traveling long distances. Remote monitoring using an online consultation platform enables neonatal or pediatric specialist doctors to effectively diagnose and provide solutions to neonatal health concerns irrespective of the geographic location or time. Both families and care providers feel well connected and satisfied with the solutions provided by the online specialists.

With the rise in the reach of specialist neonatal care via virtual or online consultation platforms, it can help in reducing the unnecessary neonatal transfers and complications caused due to delays in seeking specialist care. Whether dealing with a difficult birth or a newborn with a low Apgar score, onsite healthcare workers can collaborate with a remote neonatologist to stabilize the patient.

3. Decreased risk of exposure to infection:-

Setting up a telemedicine connection in the rooms of neonatal babies with strict isolation is been found to improve in-patient care and contact with families. Video telemedicine services also serve to cut down on the number of medical professionals who could become infected. As a result, expenditures are reduced, personal protective equipment is used less, and PPE is available for use in other areas.

Telemedicine is proving to be an effective means of providing essential care at the time of need, especially during pregnancy with complications, and post-partum care for both neonatal and mother. Along with specialized pediatric care via, online doctor consultation, even other specialty doctors can deliver specialized care and attention for favorable medication outcomes. Through innovative use of technology, the best-trained and experienced doctors may now treat patients in far-flung or inaccessible portions of India.

With the irreplaceable decline in India’s total fertility rate (TFR), and an increase in neonatal mortality rate, it’s time for every healthcare body to elevate neonatal care delivery across the neonatal unit using digital innovation, Telemedicine.

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