Safe at Home: How Our Newborn Care Is Evolving During the COVID Crisis
We’re providing virtual medical care for newborns to give families peace of mind.
The final days of Ashley Sutton’s pregnancy were, she says, a rollercoaster. Shelter in place began in San Francisco on March 17. On March 20, she gave birth to Joseph, a healthy baby boy, at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Pregnancy is always stressful, and in the time of COVID, expecting mothers and their partners are scared not knowing what to expect. - Seth Bokser, MD
"With it being our first child, I didn’t know what to expect," she says. “With COVID, there were even more unknowns. There was lot of uncertainty."
For mothers like Sutton, who are welcoming newborns into a world consumed by COVID-19, the normal fears every first-time parent experiences are intensified. Luckily for Sutton, a new program created for families just like hers has helped ease some of those fears.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals launched the Newborn Maternal Telemedicine Program to deliver virtual home care for newborns that have recently been discharged from the hospital. By enabling parents to check in with physicians without leaving their homes, they ensure that babies maintain the follow-up care that is crucial in their early days of life while avoiding exposure to infection.
"Pregnancy is always stressful, and in the time of COVID, expecting mothers and their partners are scared not knowing what to expect," says Seth Bokser, MD, one of several physicians spearheading the program. “The virtual home care program enables us to connect clinically and socially with these families while maintaining safe physical distancing."
Traditionally, mothers and newborns visit their doctor for a follow-up appointment in the first few days after birth to assess the newborn’s condition and offer support around breastfeeding, sleep, home safety, parenting roles, and postpartum mood.
To conduct that appointment remotely, the UCSF team has purchased baby scales to send home with families and started using software compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to provide live telemedicine care. Parents can securely connect to a video visit through their smart phones or home computers, and language interpreters can be seamlessly looped into the video visit when needed.
Sutton and her husband Ray became some of the first parents to benefit from the program.
Baby Joseph’s two virtual appointments, during which he was weighed and examined on screen, have given her family peace of mind. "We were able to get our questions answered from our couch," Sutton says. "It’s been nice to have the flexibility and the support."
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals has dramatically increased its overall telehealth capacity in order to improve accessibility for all families. The week prior to the crisis, the hospitals recorded 183 telehealth visits. The week shelter in place began, this skyrocketed to 1,654 visits, greatly reducing the volume of patient families visiting the hospital in person and limiting the risk of spreading infection.
You can support our efforts to continue delivering world-class health care to every child in need during this unprecedented time by donating to the COVID-19 Children’s Response Fund.Donate to the COVID-19 Children’s Response Fund