WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A new webcam system in the neonatal intensive care unit at Brenner Children’s Hospital allows parents to see their newborns on live video stream from outside the hospital, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said Brenner is the first hospital in the Carolinas to use the system, called Nicview. The system, used at about 30 other sites in the country, is produced and managed by Healthcare Observation Systems of Louisville, Ky. It is password-protected and secure through encryption, according to the medical center.
Parents can watch the live stream on any device with Internet capability.
“Our tiny patients stay in the hospital for several weeks and, in some cases months,” said Dr. Cherrie D. Welch, associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and medical director of Brenner’s nurseries. “Their families often live far away and have difficulty with transportation. This gives them a way to connect and bond with their infant when they can’t be here.”
Welch said that sometimes babies are transported to the neonatal intensive care unit shortly after they are born, but their mothers have to stay behind at another hospital. It might be several days before the mother is discharged and can join her baby.
“Fathers are torn between staying with the mother and going with their baby,” Welch said. “This system allows mothers to stay connected during this heart-wrenching separation and eases the father’s stress a little, too.”
On average, 40 babies are admitted to Brenner’s neonatal intensive care unit each month. There are 22 in the unit on any given day.
The webcams, which were installed in May, are at incubators in the unit. The video feed does not have audio and is not recorded.
Parents are not charged for the service, but they are required to sign a consent form to allow live video streaming of their babies. Passwords used by parents are terminated when their babies are discharged from the unit. Parents can share their passwords with anyone they wish.
Viewing times are at the discretion of the hospital, and the unit’s nurses can turn the camera off when they are giving care to babies or when babies are in distress.
“The system has been a huge hit with our families,” Welch said. “Many mothers have told me that they sleep better at night being able to see their baby before they drift off to sleep.”
Leigh Anne and William Lindsay of Summerfield were some of the first parents to use the webcam system. Their 2½-month-old daughter, Madison, is in Brenner’s neonatal unit. Madison has omphalocele, an abdominal wall birth defect. The couple expect her to be in the hospital another two months.
The webcam allows the Lindsays to care for William — Madison’s twin — at home while being able to watch their daughter at Brenner on their tablet. Through technology, the twins are on the same feeding schedule.
“One of the things I really like about the cameras at the NICU is that I get to see Madison anytime I want to,” Leigh Anne Lindsay said.
Forsyth Medical Center said it plans to offer the same service soon.
“Novant Health is in the process of fundraising for this project, which is a priority for the medical center,” said Norman Jameson, the executive director of the Novant Health Foundation Forsyth Medical Center.
He said that the medical center’s parent advisory board proposed putting web-based cameras in its neonatal intensive care unit. The board is comprised of parents who have had one or more babies cared for in the unit.
“We believe that providing live video will help parents become better aware of the daily care their babies receive, reduce anxiety and help them become more engaged with their baby and their baby’s caregivers,” Jameson said.
Women’s Hospital in Greensboro, one of six hospitals under the Cone Health umbrella, said it has no immediate plans for the webcam system.
“Women’s Hospital does not have this unit or one similar,” said Douglas Allred, a spokesman for Cone Health. “I am unaware of any plans to install one.”