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New system will use video to monitor babies in NICU

HALIFAX – Care providers, researchers and parents at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax have joined forces to develop ChezNICU, a secure, virtual environment that will link neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patient rooms with family homes and caregivers on as well as offsite. The IWK is ready to pilot and advance the project in 2016 with new support from the Government of Canada.

The project team includes Dr. Patrick McGrath, Integrated Vice President of Research, Innovation and Knowledge Translation at the IWK and Nova Scotia Health Authority; Michelle LeDrew, Director of the Maternal Newborn Program at the IWK; and scientific lead Marsha Campbell-Yeo, an assistant professor at the Dalhousie School of Nursing and a neonatal nurse practitioner and clinician scientist at the IWK.

“The ChezNICU project is helping us to transform the way we care for vulnerable newborns and their families admitted to the IWK’s NICU, especially those families from outside the Halifax region,” said Tracy Kitch, President and CEO, IWK Health Centre. “Funding announced by Minister MacKay and our friends at Cisco will help us optimize communication and education for families and care providers, keep families together, ensure a smooth transition to home, and streamline and improve efficiency of NICU care.”

Through over 25 years of caring for babies and their families in the NICU, Dr. Campbell-Yeo has spearheaded extensive R&D aimed at improving care for at-risk infants targeting ways to alleviate pain, stress and optimize neurodevelopment. The idea for ChezNICU arose from conversations with NICU parents seeking ways to maintain contact with and take a more active role in the care of their newborns.

“ChezNICU will allow young families to have more influence on the health outcomes of their children,” said Dr. Campbell-Yeo. “The program allows care providers to connect with families, to create an interactive forum to exchange information and education about their baby’s health needs aimed to help them to gain confidence and take a greater role in caring for their baby.”

ChezNICU will run on computers, tablets and smartphones, enabling parents, families, doctors and other care providers to communicate with one another and visually check in on infants from nearly anywhere. It will offer a personalized educational component, teaching parents about their children’s conditions and how to care for them. The detailed care instructions will be available 24/7 and shareable with other care providers.

The IWK has collaborated with Cisco Canada to advance a full pilot of the technology and explore commercialization opportunities. The first step is to secure equipment to deploy ChezNICU within the IWK, including smart monitors, tablets and teleconferencing.

The Government of Canada is investing $217,145 through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program (BDP) to enable the IWK Health Centre to acquire the equipment for the pilot. Cisco Canada is providing matching funds.

“ChezNICU is an innovative project that connects families, patient and caregivers in a new and exciting way to help improve patient outcomes,” said Rod Murphy, Vice-President of Cisco Canada. “Cisco is pleased to be part of this initiative which is a powerful example of the Internet of Everything in action.” Article link here.

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