Parents of Fragile Newborns Find Comfort with Monitoring App
BERKELEY, Calif. – Leaving a tiny premature or sick newborn for weeks—even months—at the hospital is emotionally and physically challenging for families. To help ease parents’ minds and encourage a strong connection with their babies, a pilot project at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is testing a smart tablet-based app developed by Epic. The app, called MyChart Bedside, makes it easy for parents to check on their baby any time, day or night and helps parents feel close to their babies, even when they physically aren’t.
Using their own personal or hospital-provided smart tablet, parents log in to the app to check their baby’s recent vital signs and lab results, double-check the time of an upcoming procedure or just reassure themselves that all is well. Parents are also able to access discharge planning materials and educational information through the app. Fourteen smart tablets are available for parents to check out and take home if they don’t have one of their own. NICU social workers train parents how to use the tablets and the app to monitor their newborns. Each smart tablet is password-protected and allows parents access only to their own baby’s information.
“We hope this technology will help our families feel more involved in their baby’s care and have a better understanding of what’s happening with their child,” says Alex Espinoza, M.D., Alta Bates Summit’s NICU medical director. “The great benefit of MyChart Bedside is that it allows parents to gain more insight into their baby’s progress and stay in tune with their medical treatment 24 hours a day—even when they’re not able to be at the hospital.”
“Knowing that we can log in anytime and get a live-time update on our baby’s condition definitely brings peace of mind during what can be a challenging time,” says first-time mother and Pittsburg resident Doreen Lal. Lal’s baby girl was born at Alta Bates Summit’s Berkeley campus nine weeks premature. “My husband and I can’t be at Savannah’s bedside all the time, so being able to check in remotely is very comforting.”
According to Alta Bates Summit’s chief operating officer Rose Calhan, the pilot is showing promising results. “Parents who use the app tell us that it’s reassuring to be able to check in on their baby any time. At Alta Bates Summit, we continue to encourage parents to call the unit and speak to their baby’s care team if they have questions or concerns, but we’re finding the app provides another layer of comfort for parents during a very stressful period,” says Calhan.
Baby Savannah weighed a little over two pounds when she was born. Lal says being able to monitor Savannah’s progress via an iPad has allowed them to stay fully engaged with the nurses and care providers.
“The nurses have been great, and the iPad allows us to track who’s caring for Savannah and the medications she receives,” adds Lal. “We’re learning something different every day, and we’re very happy with the care our little daughter is receiving.”
The pilot launched in February. Initial results have proved so promising that there are plans underway to make the technology a standard offering at Alta Bates Summit’s NICU.