• Article
  • January 3, 2018

Webcams Offer Improved Experience for NICU Families

For a parent, the stress of having a child in the NICU can be almost unbearable. And that stress increases considerably any time they can't be by their child's bedside. To address this, Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital chose to join the growing number of children's hospitals to install webcams in their NICU ward.

"There are multiple reports discussing the stress, anxiety and sometimes depression that families may suffer from being detached from their babies," says Hany Aly, M.D., chair of neonatology at Cleveland Clinic Children's. "The webcams have been instrumental in minimizing the amount of stress families are suffering."Thanks to a donation from a former patient family, Cleveland Clinic Children's recently installed nearly 90 webcams in NICUs across three locations in its system, becoming the first children's hospital in northeast Ohio to use this technology.

The webcams deliver a live video feed of the child that is accessible from any internet-enabled device. They don't transmit audio or record video, and the hospital provides parents with log-in credentials to protect privacy. The cameras stream live video continuously and are only turned off when a patient is receiving nursing care or undergoing a medical procedure.

Providing additional benefits

Not surprisingly, Aly says parent feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents appreciate the peace of mind that comes with these webcams. But the NICU team is experiencing some unforeseen benefits too.

"This was a starting point for us to think about other technologies or ways of communicating online with parents when they are in the NICU, or even after discharge," Aly says. "We've seen that parents are more comfortable with using a camera to access their child, so we can follow up with parents electronically after discharge of the baby, too. It's a secondary benefit that we didn't account for."

The first step

In addition to relieving stress on patient families, a primary driver of the program for Cleveland Clinic Children's was to provide total transparency to families, and Aly says it has enhanced overall parent satisfaction with the hospital. While he acknowledges it may be difficult for institutions to prioritize patient webcams among the multitude of worthy projects seeking budgetary approval, Aly sees the technology as the beginning of something larger.

"We are moving in a direction of digital technologies, and I see this as the first step," Aly says. "More steps will come in the near future, and it's important to keep from falling behind. You want your NICU to grow with technology, because the technologies are moving very fast."

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.