UCC and CUMH collaborate on "virtual visiting" for premature babies

2 Apr 2020
Parent praises ‘amazing’ new initiative that allows her family to remotely check-in on her baby son amid COVID-19 visiting restrictions. 

Cork University Maternity Hospital and INFANT Centre UCC collaborate to provide virtual visiting for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Cork University Maternity Hospital, Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate have worked with the INFANT Research Centre at University College Cork to introduce a secure video messaging platform in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Under normal circumstances, having a baby in the neonatal unit can be a time of significant emotional distress and anxiety for parents. In these very challenging times, significant restrictions on access to the neonatal unit means that only mums can visit for limited time periods during the day. These necessary measures, put in place because of the COVID-19 outbreak, have added to the stress parents face when their newborn infant requires neonatal unit admission. CUMH wants to help provide comfort to parents during this worrying period.  

“This is a fantastic initiative which we hope will go some way to reducing the significant stress that parents are now facing. Whether it’s for a day or two admission, or indeed many months for our most immature babies, we believe this system, along with its educational material, will alleviate some of the worry that families face in these difficult times,” said Prof Gene Dempsey, Consultant Neonatologist at CUMH and Principal Investigator at INFANT, UCC. 

The INFANT team supported the rapid introduction of this solution into the NICU which allows staff, coordinated by Neonatal Nurse Manager, Ms Lucille Bradfield, to record short video messages and updates of each baby which can then be sent directly to parents via the vCreate platform. 

“We were able to set this up very quickly because of the research infrastructure we already had in place in the NICU, thanks to Mr Jerry Deasy and the excellent IT Team at INFANT. This really demonstrates the added value of research integration in hospitals which can respond with agility and speed to urgent needs,” said Prof Geraldine Boylan, Director of the INFANT Research Centre. 

The safe and secure platform can be accessed at any time, from any device and is available at no cost to the parents. It is simple to use and parents can easily create an account that is linked directly to their baby, allowing them to download videos to share with siblings, grandparents and other family members. 

This system follows on from previous research work supported by Science Foundation Ireland. It is now being piloted with families in CUMH with the support of neonatal unit staff.   

Nicola Carey is a parent whose son is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her family have been using the virtual visitation platform to check on his progress. 

“It is great, as his Dad can see the progress he is making on a daily basis. It is great to see him in the morning before I visit. It has been amazing for the anxious grandparents to see him and know he is doing well. It has been brilliant for us," she said. 

“CUMH is committed to being a hospital where research and innovation can thrive. CUMH is delighted to be able to access the expertise of our UCC academic partners at the INFANT Research Centre to help improve the experience of families in this most difficult of times,” said Prof John R. Higgins, Clinical Director, Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate.


NOTE: Accompanying photograph is a stock image for which UCC/CUMH has permission to use.


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