It’s not every day that a webinar almost brings me to tears. But last week, it happened.
Our most recent webinar offering focused on “The Future of Technology in Healthcare” (click here to view the archive) which, as many leaders are realizing, means getting patients to take a more active role in their care. Two CIOs — Bill Spooner of Sharp HealthCare and Ed Marx of Texas Health Resources — discussed some of the initiatives in place at their organizations to increase engagement. Some examples include wayfinding apps, robust patient portals, and home monitoring and health tracking tools — all of which are smart strategies that can help drive patient satisfaction and solidify a hospital’s reputation in the community.
But there was one initiative that really struck a chord with me. Texas Health Resources recently installed web cameras in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that enables parents, family members, and friends to view real-time video of babies. The Peek-A-Boo service also provides one-way audio so that newborns can hear their parents’ voices. All access is routed through a secure Internet portal, according to the organization.
As some of you know, my twins were born prematurely last June, and had to stay in the NICU for three weeks. Once I was discharged, I had to rely on friends and family members to drive me to the hospital every day so that I could see the babies (my husband Dan returned to work so that he could be home with me when the babies were discharged). Leaving the hospital every night was so difficult. Although I had dozens of photos and videos of the babies on my phone, it just wasn’t the same as being able to see them.
It’s funny, I remember Dan and I joking that we were going to take the video monitor out of the babies’ nursery and install it in the NICU so we could take a peek at them at any time. We could wake up at 4 a.m. and check in on them; it would be great.
So when I heard Marx talk about the Peek-A-Boo web camera at last week’s webinar, I thought, ‘Wow. What an amazing thing to do for NICU parents.’
To say that having a baby — or in our case, two — in the NICU is stressful is putting it mildly. We knew our babies were in good hands, but it wasn’t the experience we expected. When I was pregnant, I had visions of rooming in with my little ones at the hospital, and going home together on the same day. Nothing can quite prepare you for an extended stay in the NICU.
There are, however, things that can make the experience better, and a web camera is one of them. According to Marx, there are plans to expand the service to other areas of the hospital, which can help continue to drive patient satisfaction. But this initiative goes way beyond that. It provides piece of mind to worried parents, and helps them bond with their babies even when they can’t be at the hospital.
I would’ve been thrilled to have been able to watch over Austin and Scarlett when I was at home. Of course I probably wouldn’t have slept at all, but it would’ve been worth it.
To me, it’s the perfect example of how technology can be leveraged to transform the patient experience. It’s what health IT is all about.