Cedars-Sinai enlists FaceTime for moms to see their babies in the NICU

By Neil Versel
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Cedars Sinai LA iPad maternity wardUnmodified iPads simply running Apple's built-in FaceTime app are giving new mothers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles a chance to see their premature or sick babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) even if they are immobile while recovering from delivery or the infants are in isolation.

"When mom's recovering, she can't come up to the NICU and see her baby," Yvonne Kidder, a clinical nurse in the NICU at the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center tells MobiHealthNews in an interview. Kidder created BabyTime, so named because it uses FaceTime to let mothers see and virtually interact with their newborns within hours of birth.

"Moms sometimes take 2-3 days before they can see the baby," Kidder says. "We want to cut that down to 2-3 hours."

The hospital's pediatrics chair estimates that 20 percent to 30 percent of deliveries by Caesarean section leave the mother confined to a recovery room in labor and delivery a floor below the NICU for 24-48 hours after childbirth. Hospital guidelines call for mothers to have video time with their babies at least once per 12-hour nursing shift. They also can ask questions of clinicians in the NICU by mobile videoconference.

BabyTime started Feb. 11 for a small group of new mothers who had C-sections. Later it will expand to traditional deliveries if needed, according to Kidder. "It's just awesome," Kidder reports two months later. "We've been getting wonderful feedback from the moms and the families."

Kidder says she first got the idea in August 2012, when she was working with a mother who was sick in a recovery ward while her baby was in the NICU, and the patient had no other family members around. Nurses and respiratory therapists at Cedars have iPhones running the Voalte communications system, but at the time, they only had iPhone 3 models, which did not support FaceTime.

Kidder says she presented the FaceTime idea to her nurse manager, who then brought the idea to the medical director for women's and children's services. The hospital had been looking at a NICU webcam service called NICView with cameras at each bedside. "It did not have the flexibility of the iPad," Kidder says, since nurses can move iPads around to provide different views. Buying a handful of Apple tablets was a lot less expensive than installing a camera system, though she says an NICView is still on the table for the future.

The hospital's informatics project team met in September and created guidelines and consent policies for BabyTime, then agreed to purchase one iPad for the NICU and one for the postpartum ward. Kidder says Cedars plans on getting another iPad for the NICU and one for labor and delivery that patients can carry with them if they are transferred. "Sometimes mom gets very sick and needs to get to the ICU herself," Kidder explains.

She foresees expanding BabyTime with iPads or other videoconferencing links at home and for babies needing to be moved to other hospitals. "We haven't established how we are going to do this yet," Kidder says.