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Can Internet monitoring of healthy newborns replace conventional post-discharge practices?

Using an Internet-based system to monitor low-risk newborns after they leave the hospital may be more cost-effective and reduce emergency department visits more than convention hospital-based follow-ups, according to findings recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

In the study, Spanish researchers tracked a group of infants using a website where parents completed surveys on their child's health twice a week, communicated with health-care providers via e-mail and accessed information about newborn care and breastfeeding. Doctors and nurses could view patients' questionnaires and correspond with them. Newborns enrolled in the study were born between 35 and 37 weeks, ranged in weight from under 5 pounds to under seven pounds and lived in households more than 25 miles from the hospital. According to a Health Care Communication News story:

After one month, the study says, 94 percent of the patients who received the Internet-based follow-up did not have to go through additional emergency department (ED) visits. This is 10 percentage points higher then the patients in the usual-care controlled group.

Not only did the ED visits decrease by using telemedicine, so did cost! The hospital-based follow-up was roughly $243 compared to just $115 for using the Internet-based follow-up.

Photo by Suzanne Shahar

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