New secure tech keeping parents connected with their premature babies

By Sian Stringer

18 December 2018

3 minute read

Two premature babies in crib in hosptial. Camera setup filming them

Our new video-streaming technology is helping parents stay connected with their premature babies during extended hospital stays.

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 go home with their families.

For some mums and dads, 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 very often, and the separation can affect their ability to bond with their new child.  That’s why we’ve created a new app with Townsville Hospital to help parents stay connected with their baby from afar.

Now showing on your phone only: your new baby

Samantha Hayden, mother to pre-term twins Zachary and Sebastian who have spent the first weeks of their lives in The Townsville Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, has been trialling the video-streaming app and said she loves being able to see her boys whenever she wants.

While videostreaming technology isn’t new, it’s not always secure. Teaming up with Townsville Hospital, our researchers at our Australian e-Health Research Centre have been trialling 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. More than 35 families have used the app to stay connected with their babies since the trial started early this year, and so far feedback has been very positive.

Lady holding her two premature twin babies

“If I get up in the middle of the night, I can turn on my phone and see my boys wriggling and moving,” Ms Hayden said. “I’m immediately reassured.”

Digital tech helping make healthcare more accessible

Advancements in digital technology are helping change the way Australians get the healthcare they need. Our e-health researchers have been beavering away at this over the last few years, creating everything from mobile platforms to support women with gestational diabetes, to remote eye-screening that helps GPs detect diabetic retinopathy.

This sort of tech could make a real difference for people from all walks of life, especially for those living in rural and regional areas who might be a fair distance from their closest hospital or specialist.

For this app, once the trial at Townsville Hospital is complete in early 2019, we’re hoping to look at making the technology generally available – so stay tuned!