Video conferencing can save lives. There are no caveats needed on that sentence.
These aren’t faddish, social media imitating, casual devices you download from the App store. These are real world tools employed to bring about better patient care in emergency situations.
They can be used to help patients right across the spectrum of the population, from the youngest to the oldest in our society.
And that begins at birth.
Virtual Home Birth Assistance
Some midwives are using video conferencing to share patient status and organize their wards, and there’s always the potential to consult external pediatricians and experts through VC, but essentially the in-hospital experience is already a pretty safe one.
But if you’re the mother of a more thrill-seeking baby who just wants to enter the world right now and can’t wait during a trip to the hospital, then the remote ambulance-to-emergency room link I mentioned earlier is for you.
But what about mothers who choose to have their baby outside a hospital, those who prefer a home birth? Video conferencing comes to the fore in this case, and can provide an additional safety net for midwives, mothers, and babies alike.
Video Calling Emergencies
Sadly, despite the marvelous advances in modern medicine over the past decades, home birth remains a much more high-risk endeavor than a hospital birth.
Research has found babies born outside a hospital are at seven times greater risk than those whose parents prefer giving birth in a hospital.
There’s a complex web of legal do’s and don’ts that govern home births across the U.S., and the factors that give rise to that higher mortality rate are the subject of debate.
What is easier to comprehend is how video conferencing could support the home birth process without becoming invasive. In its leanest form it means nothing more than having a smartphone handy, equipped with one of a dozen video calling apps and registered with a pediatrician or hospital.
If anything unusual or alarming happens pre- or post-delivery, the midwife or parents could instantly explain the situation and give their remote expert a chance to see for themselves.
A more sophisticated approach would involve using modern webcams that provide high-resolution images and can be operated remotely, letting the doctor take charge. There are also a range of medical devices currently available, such as stethoscopes and thermometers, that can send a patient’s vital signs directly to their doctor, so a pediatrician or obstetrician could check a baby’s heartbeat, listen to his breathing, and even look inside his mouth, ears, and nose.
That kind of setup, and the need to register your birth and video link with a remote service so there’s someone available to take your call, takes some planning, but if it saves a life–or prevents the intense anxiety of new parents–it’s certainly worth it.
The lack of such a video conferencing set up during a home birth has already been bemoaned in court.
Saving Lives with a Video Call
A UK court recently heard the death of a newborn baby could have been avoided if pediatricians had been able to view its condition moments after a home birth.
The hospital system in question has since moved to ensure all future home births are equipped with video calling to limit such catastrophes. In light of that horror, perhaps a video link could become mandatory for all home births?
It wouldn’t have to be a logistical nightmare for the parents, either. Browser-based web calling shifts the emphasis toward software, rather than hardware, meaning any internet-enabled device with a screen and camera can host a call after a quick download. And there are a number of VC services that let people meet across platforms and devices in order to do away with compatibility issues.
Again, there’s a mess of politics and state laws to get through before such a system could be widely implemented in the U.S.
That’s a shame, because a video conferencing supported network of doctors, pediatricians, and midwives could be set up right now to improve the home birth experience.
And it would save lives.