Technologies for paediatric care

1 October 2020 Healthcare (Industry)

Last month we looked at how security technology is improving hospital management. This month we look at technologies for paediatric care.

In some cases, important physical contact between mothers and babies in the early days of life is not possible due to poor health or risk of infection to the mother, the baby, or both.

Worldwide, between 8% and 10% of new-borns start life in the intensive care unit, but technology can diminish the negative effects of forced separation. “It is known that physical separation between parents and new-borns increases the risk of parental depression. There is even a relationship between separation in the first 24 hours of birth and increased parental stress related to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU),” says Clifton Greeff, national surveillance business manager at Duxbury Networking, distributor of Axis surveillance technology.

Emerging evidence suggests that care practices supporting physical and emotional closeness between the parent and preterm infant decrease the prevalence of maternal depression similar to levels reported in mothers of full-term infants.

Virtual contact via electronic devices may decrease the sense of isolation and alienation between parents and babies deprived of physical contact. Even the mother’s voice can help in the physical and emotional development of the child.

In a study conducted to measure the effects of using cameras to virtually connect parents and babies in neonatal ICUs, cameras were placed above the children’s beds with individual video access via a password protected web browser. Although ‘virtual visitation’ did not result in a significant reduction in the length of hospital stays, it was well received by families of new-borns requiring prolonged hospitalisation. In fact, the greatest impact was an increase in parental enthusiasm.

This study was conducted by an Axis customer, The Centre Hospitalier Alès-Cevennes (CHAC) in southern France, over a period of more than one year in its neonatal ward. The results showed that mothers who could remotely view their child produced more milk than an isolated mother. Furthermore, the milk tested was found to be of a better quality and richer composition than that from a mother who could not see her child.

How does the virtual connection work?

Depending on the care team’s protocol, images of the child can be transmitted continuously throughout the day or as scheduled. Parents can access the images via a web browser from their own electronic devices or from mobile devices belonging to the hospital.

“There are real examples of both scenarios. Prompted by research that showed how the emotional bond in the relationship between mother and child plays a crucial role in the development and recovery of a new-born, the chief physician at the Olomouc University Hospital’s new-born department in Czech Republic, sought new ways to ensure this link between mothers and babies. The solution? Cleverly installing small, low-weight cameras on special lamp catchers just above the top glass of 12 incubators,” says Greeff.

The hospital did not need any special IT equipment or servers to operate the cameras. Each incubator had a corresponding single user with secure access to the child’s family through an intuitive web interface (or via an app for viewing on tablet or smartphone).

The staff authorised when video was accessible by the family, and could even make live video available after regular visiting hours. For privacy protection purposes, no images were recorded. The initiative was so successful that the hospital has future plans to provide tablets to hospitalised mothers so they can see their children from their own beds.

This is exactly what VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, Netherlands did. A full HD camera was installed in the neonatal unit over each child’s bed, allowing mothers to follow their babies online, in real time, via a password protected browser, from within hours of delivery. The impressively high level of detail helps to make the separation less difficult for mothers. And the nursing staff also has access to live images.

Next month we’ll discuss solutions for knowledge sharing and technologies for clinical and surgical monitoring.

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