TeleHealth brings comfort to parents of NICU babies

As if delivering a baby prematurely wasn’t stressful enough, there are circumstances when new mothers can’t be physically near their babies. Perhaps the mother telehealthhad complications following birth and has to stay in her hospital bed or maybe her baby is just too sick for physical contact. It’s in these cases that OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois is finding new ways to connect parents with their newborns who require neonatal intensive care.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OSF Children’s Hospital in Peoria with the help of the OSF Innovation TeleHealth team in March 2016 implemented the use of tablet computers so moms could see, talk and essentially sleep side by side with their babies even though they were in different parts of the hospital. The mobile tablets also give parents the opportunity to talk with the NICU nurses about their babies’ progress.

Since the TeleNICU program’s inception, there have been about 85 cases where the tablet computers were used. The TeleHealth team is hoping to expand this program across the Ministry.

A Test Case

The TeleHealth team recently expanded the TeleNICU program to OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. The idea was to test the telehealth equipment at a distance and to comfort families who had premature and sick babies transferred to the OSF Children’s Hospital in Peoria while they had to stay behind.

Our next goal is to apply for funding to purchase a camera system for every bed in the NICU. The system we are considering would give families a 360-degree view of their babies, 24 hours a day from any location.

There would also be an opportunity for parents to share a web link with expanded family members who want to virtually visit newborns. Privacy options could shut down video while patient care is taking place.

Using TeleHealth to Give Patients the Care They Need

As a member of the TeleHealth team, we discuss how we are using technology to help improve outcomes, reduce costs and improve access to care, allowing for timely diagnosis and treatment. However, we are also using technology and other types of health care solutions to go the extra step and give patients peace of mind.

As a mother, I know how difficult it can be being away from your baby. We don’t want parents to have to feel that separation, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that their tiny babies are in the right hands, receiving the best care we have to offer.