A rolling telehealth cart that allows physicians to meet with...

A rolling telehealth cart that allows physicians to meet with their patients remotely, is shown at Stony Brook University Hospital in 2021. Now, Stony Brook Medicine is expanding its telehealth offerings with a neonatal consultation program. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A $630,640 state grant awarded to Stony Brook Medicine to establish a neonatal telehealth consultation program "will increase the support for maternal health and child health," said the medical director of the university's neonatal division.

The grant — part of a $40 million package for health care improvements on Long Island that Gov. Kathy Hochul's office announced earlier this week — will enable the university's medical facility to purchase several computer tablets and "advanced cameras" to be distributed among several other hospitals, most in Suffolk County, as well as a midwife provider.

The Suffolk County Neonatal Telehealth Program will allow Stony Brook's neonatal specialists to "view when the babies are born and when the baby needs help," said Dr. Shanthy Sridhar, medical director of both the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Neonatal Transports, and pediatric director of the Regional Perinatal Center at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. 

The program also "can provide consultation" with medical personnel at the other facilities, Sridhar said.

She said the tablets and cameras will be distributed to five birthing hospitals: Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, and Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

Two "non-birthing" hospitals also will receive them — Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue, and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport — and so will Gaia Midwives, based in Kings Park, she said.

"We can provide additional expert opinion," Sridhar said, when complications arise and assessment can be made, to determine whether transport is needed to Stony Brook's Children's Hospital, which officials said was Suffolk County's only "regional perinatal center."

For example, "If a mother comes to a non-birthing hospital's emergency room and delivers there [and] if I give them [the hospital] a camera and tablet, we can help them transition the baby," Sridhar said. Experts at Stony Brook NICU can advise them until a transport team arrives and transfers the baby safely to Stony Brook. 

"Non-birthing hospitals don’t have delivery rooms. It’s not a common practice for them. They need help from the region. We have the capability of providing extra support," Sridhar said.

Pointing to the increase in home births, Sridhar said, the telehealth program also would enhance consultations with mothers and their midwives. "Stony Brook experts will be available for support for whatever questions they have," including before delivery. 

Sridhar said it was unclear when the program with the tablets and cameras will begin but expected it to be "soon."

Dr. Harold L. Paz, executive vice president for Health Sciences, Stony Brook University, and CEO of Stony Brook University Medicine, said in an email that the telehealth consultation program would "Answer a growing need for neonatologists throughout Suffolk County and allow direct assessment of neonates by Stony Brook Children’s Hospital-based specialists." 

"These telehealth devices will allow for rapid initiation of consultations with Stony Brook Children's Hospital neonatal specialists for assessment of infants, optimizing the [Regional Perinatal Center's] ability to cover Suffolk County’s vast geography with virtual visits 24 hours per day, seven days per week," Paz said. 

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