When complications arise during childbirth. Sometimes mother and baby have to be separated afterward. The mother might stay behind to recover at a community hospital, while the baby is transported to a newborn intensive care unit at a regional medical facility.
Parkview Regional Medical Center health care providers are used to the scenario.
To eliminate the stress of being separated at such a crucial time, the hospital launched a project May 1 that allows mom and baby to interact, even if they're at different hospitals.
“We're thrilled to be able to offer this to our moms, so they have that opportunity to not miss those very first moments,” said Lori Inman, director of nursing services for women and children. “Even though they can't physically be with the baby, they still have the ability to be able to look at the baby and talk to the baby.”
The technology to connect mother and baby is simple, requiring only an iPad and a cart to connect it to.
Max Maile, vice president of virtual health at the medical center, said the technology works a lot like FaceTime.
“We have a secure connection where the mom is able to connect to the video feed, and on the other side, the nurse in the NICU connects the baby to the video feed,” Maile said. “All this is done using iPads and a special app that we have to create the security. That enables the video feed for them to see and hear each other.”
Maile heard of the idea last fall, when a presenter at a conference was showing a similar program. Like Parkview, this hospital had many small community hospitals connecting to a larger regional medical center.
“I came back and started talking to some of our NICU leaders and technology leaders, and realized this is something that really we had all the existing licenses for, for some of our other telemedicine delivery,” Maile said.
Lisa Griswold, nursing manager for Parkview's newborn intensive care unit, said the need for the technology came from moms desperately wanting to be connected to their babies.
“It allows Mom to know that Baby is safe. It allows her to observe her baby, see what her baby looks like, listen to her baby; Those types of things that she's not able to do when they're completely separated from each other,” Griswold said.
With the hospital already purchasing licenses every year for telehealth communication, Maile reached out to the Parkview Foundation for equipment funding.
Within a few weeks, $18,000 was approved, the money coming from donors. Seven telemedicine carts were purchased, one for each Parkview community hospital and one for the newborn intensive care unit.
Maile said for most telehealth communication like this, 30-minute video feeds are set up – so he assumed connecting moms with newborns would be no different.
However, the first mother who used the technology enjoyed it so much that it developed into a 10-hour session.
“They didn't imagine being separated from their baby, so when it did happen, they were relieved they were able to still see the infant, even though they couldn't join for another day or two,” Maile said. “That was exactly the response we had hoped for.”
During the video stream, nurses at the care unit also give the mother updates and have conversations about the baby's health.
Inman and Griswold hope to see the program grow, adding additional iPads so that more than one mother can connect at a time.
“When we don't have the opportunity for them to be present with each other, for Mom to reach out and touch her baby, this is the next best opportunity for us to be able to allow her to see her baby, talk to her baby and be able to make a connection that way,” Inman said.
At Parkview, Maile said the reception of telemedicine and virtual health has been positive. While the technology in the newborn intensive care unit doesn't add patient volume or revenue, he hopes use increases.
“We obviously don't wish that anyone's baby is transported away from them to the NICU, but we're excited that if that does happen, we're able to provide an option like this,” Maile said.