Aetna to launch tablet-based NeoCare program for parents with babies in the NICU

By Brian Dolan

NeoCare Solutions iPad appAetna will soon launch a new mobile-based offering, called NeoCare, for members who are new parents with infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). NeoCare Solutions, which is a startup that is a part of Aetna's Healthagen's subsidiary, offers a tablet-based app that keeps parents connected to a NeoCoach -- a registered nurse or social worker -- who supports them throughout their child's time in the NICU and during their transition home.

"The NeoCare program aids parents in becoming their own child’s empowered advocate, helps them navigate the complexity of the NICU, and provides much needed emotional support," NeoCare's President and Founder Dr. Jeffrey Jacques wrote in a blog post in May. "Our technology platform, leveraged by the parents through an iPad application, provides answers to questions such as: How do I interact with the NICU staff? How do I ask doctors difficult questions? How do I come to grips with difficult news? What does that diagnosis or that treatment mean? How can I best help my baby, and how do we get home?"

Jacques helped create the program after experiencing this first hand with his wife (who is also a physician) and their son in 2010. 

Aetna hasn't yet commercially launched the program, which is still in pilot mode, but Jacques said in May that the commercial launch was just a few months away. On NeoCare's website the company directs interested Aetna members to contact their employer to request access to NeoCare. The program requires that users have a tablet -- iPads, Android tablets, and Windows tablets are supported, according to the company's FAQ. If a patient doesn't have a tablet, NeoCare will provide one in some cases.

While the NeoCare program has no set duration, it is designed to support parents through their child's first year of life. The company said that most parents, however, don't seek assistance after six months using the program.

NeoCare writes that parents would ideally talk to their NeoCoach every two days, but the coach is available at any time. The app includes live video chat with coaches as well as text-based chatting. It also includes features for tracking your baby's progress, capturing private thoughts on progress, and a reminders feature for important events.

The Neo app is also designed as a self-managed program so users can continue using it after they are no longer working with a coach.

MobiHealthNews first noticed the NeoCare app when we reported on Aetna's shuttering of InvolveCare, a caregiver app and support platform, in March. At the time the NeoCare app in Apple's AppStore was listed as an app developed by InvolveCare, and it may be that NeoCare is the result of a pivot for the more general and built-out caregiver effort that Aetna pulled the plug on.

Last year MobiHealthNews reported on LA's Cedars-Sinai Medical Center using iPad and FaceTime to connect new mothers with their babies in the NICU, and earlier this year we reported on a similar program at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital.