Optimizing Technology to Elevate the NICU Family Experience

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By Christopher Rand, CEO at AngelEye Health

As a goal, hospitals work to make their patients and communities healthier. To do so, hospitals need to be more than health providers – they need to work in partnership with patients and families in their pursuit of wellness both in and out of the facility. When the patient is a child in the NICU or PICU, the hospital experience becomes especially important for the parents and families. 

Given the clinical and bonding benefits of the parent-baby dyad, it is important that parents are consistently and actively engaged with their child’s care team as soon as possible after a child is admitted to the NICU or PICU.  Achieving this involves a comprehensive parent and family engagement program that encompasses education, visualization, patient information sharing, and feeding management. Many hospitals do not have the staff, time, nor money to focus on building this type of program. In these cases, they can benefit by partnering with industry experts to help develop and maintain these resources for the parents and families of children in critical care units. 

HIPAA-compliant tele-engagement platforms that integrate families simply and seamlessly into their child’s care team have a proven, positive impact on the quality of the family experience, care delivery workflows for the dedicated bedside team, and ultimately, the improved health of the patient. In order to best support your staff, patients, and families, consider integrating the following technology to your neonatal and pediatric hospital units: 

  • Real-time access: Typically, parents and family members cannot be at a patient’s bedside 24/7. In many instances there are other children at home, jobs to work, and a multitude of confounding factors that makes hospital visits tricky. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated hospital visits further by restricting visitation times and the number of visitors a patient was able to have. To help families connect with their child, consider integrating a bedside camera system that can be managed by the staff on the unit and accessed by patient families from any mobile device. Providing access to bedside cameras has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety for parents, support bonding when family members cannot be at the hospital and helps improve staff’s workflow efficiency. 
  • Digital Education: Offering digital education can make all the difference for NICU families. Instead of being handed a stack of printed pamphlets or watching a time-consuming and often inconvenient videos while at the hospital, digital education solutions empower parents by offering a portal where hospitals can upload customizable education and monitor parents’ progress on the patient’s path to discharge. Utilizing informational graphics, videos, PDFs and presentations, hospitals can create customized education to meet the unique needs of each family. Studies show that when care plan instructions are understood at the time of discharge, patients are 30% less likely to be readmitted or to visit the ER. They also save the care team countless hours on educating families and answering questions all while cutting down on production costs that would otherwise be spent printing and ordering more binders and folders. While always available to families with specific questions, using a third-party education platform frees time for direct patient care, since education is more accessible and efficient.  
  • Elevate Care Team and Family Communication: Hospitals can improve NICU outcomes by providing visual connections that give parents comfort and confidence. One-way provider-to-parent communication allows care teams to easily share patient status and memorable moments with real-time texts, pictures, and recorded videos. This type of technology supports team workflows and engages parents as essential members of the care team from their device. Photo, video and text updates help enhance family bonding while allowing staff to stay focused on patient care. 
  • Feeding and Milk Inventory Management: Nurses in NICUs and PICUs spend thousands of hours every year across 1,500 plus hospitals, managing milk for the nearly 500,000 babies in the United States that require special and often critical care in the first months of their lives. These efforts include not only feeding, but also monitoring, labeling, printing, and logging infant-specific nutrition data. Introducing a feeding and milk inventory management solution can help reduce human error, increase efficiency and help hospitals automatically track valuable breast milk data through EHR integration. A parent-facing application allows parents to track milk production and visualize their milk inventory at home or in the hospital, further reducing feeding errors. Additional supportive communication tools, like two-way, HIPAA-compliant messaging with lactation staff can help support breastfeeding and milk production, reduce nurse workloads and keep parents engaged and involved in their child’s care.  

Engaging patients effectively requires integrating and optimizing technology to better serve patients and their families. In fact, new research shows that over half of CIOs rate patient engagement technology as their top priority for 2021.  More engaged patients and families lends to potentially improved Press Ganey scores as it relates to patient satisfaction when parents of patients fill out the survey upon discharge. As the only an organization providing a complete HIPAA-compliant tele-engagement platform to integrate parents simply and seamlessly into the child’s care team, AngelEye Health delivers a unique approach that has a proven, positive impact on the quality of the family experience, care delivery workflows for the dedicated bedside team, and ultimately, the improved health of the patient. From admission to discharge, AngelEye Health positively impacts staff, families, and patients along the journey and ultimately to a successful transition home. From bonding, patient progress and treatment communication, feeding, and focused education, AngelEye offers a portfolio of solutions for supporting the highly specialized needs of the NICU and PICU today, and in the future.

About the Author

Christopher Rand is the Chief Executive Officer of AngelEye Health, a leading provider of tele-engagement solutions for hospital neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. From bonding, patient progress and treatment communication, feeding management, and focused education, AngelEye offers a portfolio of solutions for supporting the highly specialized needs of the NICU and PICU today and of the future. https://angeleye.health/ 

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