Our new videostreaming app and trial with The Townsville Hospital is helping parents stay connected with their premature babies during extended hospital stays.

The challenge

Some parents have to return home while their babies stay in hospital

Having a baby prematurely can be a stressful time for parents. Many pre-term babies need specialised care in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they’re healthy and developed enough to return home with their families.

For some parents, the stress compounds when they need to return to their home before their baby does, to care for others or to return to work. Some parents live too far away to visit the hospital frequently, and the separation can affect their ability to bond with their new child.

Our response

A new app lets parents access live video of their babies

While videostreaming technology is not new, it is not always secure. Teaming up with The Townsville Hospital in northern Queensland, telemedicine researchers from our Australian e-Health Research Centre have developed and trialled a new private and affordable videostreaming app to support the parents of babies in NICU.

First, a mobile phone is carefully and securely installed in the baby’s cot. Once the app is installed on a parent’s phone, they can securely log in over a 4G connection and watch a live-streamed video of their baby – straight from their cot at NICU.

The project is a research collaboration between The Townsville Hospital and Health Service’s (THHS) Neonatal Specialist Dr Yoga Kandasamy and Neonatal Nurse Educator Michelle Evans, James Cook University’s Dr Meegan Kilcullen and Prof Ian Atkinson, and Prof Yogesan Kanagasingam and Senior Software Engineer Janardhan Vignarajan from CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre. THHS provided funding via a SERTA grant, and Optus donated 10 mobile phones and data for the trial.

The results

A trial helped parents stay connected with their babies from afar

More than 35 families have taken part in the trial since it began in early 2018, and initial feedback from parents has been positive.

Once the trial is complete, we will look at making the technology generally available.

Advancements like these could make a real difference to providing equal access to healthcare for people from all walks of life, especially for those living in rural and regional areas a significant distance from their closest hospital.

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