Misericordia uses iPads to connect mothers and newborns
May 6, 2019
EDMONTON – The Misericordia Community Hospital is using technology to help parents see their babies when they can’t physically be with them in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The iPad technology, called NowICU, is a secure teleconferencing system.
“You’ve been pregnant for nine months and you go into labour, for some women over 20 hours and you just eventually want to meet your baby, hold him or her and he’s been taken away from you,” said new mom Catharina Lane.
“Usually the nurse arranges one iPad in the baby’s room and the next iPad in the mother’s delivery suite,” said Dr. Mehaboob Shariff Shaik, facility chief at the Misericordia NICU. It gives a mother who has undergone a difficult delivery or surgery a chance to see and speak to their child.
“When you give birth and your child has a normal gestation age, the baby stays with you the entire time, you go to the room and the baby goes to the room. I was actually bleeding a lot afterwards so I had to stay while they tried to stop it. And because I couldn’t move and the baby had to go to the NICU unit, we were separated,” said Lane.
Lane was able to use the technology after giving birth to her son Lorcan at 34 weeks, on Nov. 5, 2018.
“The iPad came on wheels and she said this is an iPad and you are actually the first mom to use it and I was like, ‘Oh cool.’” Lane said. “Just felt safe and reassured and relieved as well,” she added.
“It helps with initial bonding and it also gives mental and psychological support for the parents and family,” said Dr. Shaik.
After noticing the distress parents and babies experience when separated, Dr. Shaik asked the AHS Virtual Health team to develop the technology.
Privacy and security issues have been taken into account, said Dr. Shaik. “The software is the only thing available on the iPads and you cannot download any audio or video recording of the livestreaming. As soon as you’re done, nothing is there to go back and see,” he said.
“We use restricted AHS WiFi, so it has a very secure firewall and it is as secure as any AHS communication device,” he added.
Officials said research shows babies who are separated from their mothers have higher heart rates, cry more, and sleep and eat less. “We’re filling in that gap by connecting them as early as possible with the baby,” Dr. Shaik said.
NowICU is part of a pilot program, with only one system available to new moms. “We actually have only two iPads, so only one family can use it at a time. Sometimes we have needs for two families, then we kind of switch it between the families,” Dr. Shaik said.
Dr. Shaik hopes to expand the program with more iPads at the Misericordia and to other hospitals across the province in the future. If they can develop the software, Dr. Shaik said they may look at expanding it to allow the mother to connect from home.