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CentraCare – Monticello Birth Center Adds NICU Telehealth Services

Published in Media Releases

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital recently launched telehealth services at the CentraCare – Monticello Birth Center, allowing our smallest patients to stay closer to home and closer to their families.

This is the fourth location added after Diane Pelant, RN, Director the NICU at St. Cloud Hospital, sought to enhance the care that we are giving to our babies in CentraCare’s critical care access hospitals without NICUs.

NICU telehealth services allow our regional birth centers to have round the clock access to the NICU team at St. Cloud Hospital. To provide this service, teams use an iPad with software created by CentraCare along with a specially crafted stand that allows for complete mobility of the system.

“We now have real time access to NICU experts to provide support in stabilizing critical infants in hopes of being able to keep those babies here, with their parents, closer to home when possible while they receive care,” said John Hering, MD, President and Chief Medical Officer at CentraCare – Monticello.

Mollie Greener, RN, Clinical Educator for Virtual Health, said it’s a very fast process to help provide the support — usually in less than 5 minutes.

“They can take an iPad that has the software on it, put it over the baby and we can see baby, hear baby, and communicate with the staff from wherever we are for critical situations where they need help and support,” said Greener.

The software is designed to be accessible wherever there is WiFi. If the provider is being contacted at home or a baby is needing to get transferred to St. Cloud, they can continue to monitor the baby and provide support to the team through their phone on video.

“Before NICU telehealth services, we would have to do a phone consult and try to describe what’s going on, and just wait for them to arrive at the birth center to transport them to St. Cloud,” said Jenna Buganski, RN, CentraCare – Monticello Birth Center, Emergency Department, and Respiratory Therapy Manager. “Now, they can talk us through needed steps after seeing the baby.”

The NICU staff at St. Cloud Hospital are trained to handle critical babies every day, and this program provides that expert support and guidance when regional staff find themselves in situations with a critical baby.

“There will be cases where we do need to transport a baby who has a high level of care to the St. Cloud NICU, and this system allows the Charge Nurse in St. Cloud to be able to start getting a bed ready and prepare for the baby’s arrival — while the provider can be in route and still talk to us and assist us in care here," said Buganski.

While CentraCare is not the first NICU team to offer virtual care, research was conducted on similar programs and software to create the one that works best for the CentraCare system.

“There’s a lot of services that you can contract with that have this, but it’s amazing that CentraCare was able to build their own,” said Greener. “We built it ourselves, it’s our own program, it’s our own technology, there’s 24/7 support for the technology and we specialized it to be what we need it to be.”

Implementing the software in Monticello is just the beginning for NICU telehealth services. There are plans to continue to offer the services throughout the CentraCare regional birth centers, adding two additional locations per year, with a future goal of being able to provide NICU telehealth service beyond the CentraCare service areas.