Skype successful in home care for infants

The use of eHealth for home healthcare of premature infants could decrease the need for home doctor visits, a small study published this week in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making has found.

For the study, 34 families were broken up into three groups: one receiving standard home healthcare, a web group receiving home healthcare supplemented with a web app; and a video group with home healthcare supplemented by Skype. Participating families and nursing staff completed questionnaires about the information and communication technology's (ICT) usefulness.

The web application was easy to use, participants said, and Skype was useful for all surveyed, too. Nearly 90 percent said that video calls were better than regular phone calls. Meanwhile, 33 percent in the web group and 75 percent in the video group thought that home visits should be less frequent with the advent of Skype. Fifty percent in the web group and 100 percent in the video group said they felt more confident in caring for their child after using the technology.

Not everyone was enamored with the technology, however, The study's authors found that some nurses needed motivation to use the web application and video conferencing after initial reluctance, although only five total nurses participated.

"[One nurse] felt that the use of ICT was a threat to the personal relationship between the parents and the nurse and was afraid that the use of ICT would lessen her possibility of visiting the families," the study's authors said. "She also expressed the opinion that the use of the Internet and mobile phones by the families should be discouraged in general, since these activities, according to her, took families' attention away from their infant."

Skype-enabled telemedicine dubbed eEmergency used by Avera Health Network in Sioux Falls, S.D., allows doctors and nurses to consult with local providers and treat patients with a local nurse before an on-call physician arrives.

Meanwhile, a study published last summer by researchers from Kaiser Permanente, Colorado found virtual consultations to be a more efficient use of specialists' time than face-to-face meetings, without a decline in patient satisfaction.

To learn more:
- read the study

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