In March 2020, as the coronavirus began to spread unchecked throughout the country, many hospitals were forced to restrict visitation policies to control the spread and protect patients and staff.
These restrictions, though necessary, affected families with infants hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU): Parents were limited in their ability to visit.
At Carilion Children's NICU, the team immediately started using virtual platforms to communicate with parents and caregivers. They sent videos, pictures and text messages to patients' families, providing them with updates and information. Still, families could not observe their newborns in real time.
Now they can.
The new AngelEye camera system allows parents and families to view their newborns 24 hours a day using a secure, live-stream video feed.
“We can't imagine how hard it must be for a parent to leave their child in the care of complete strangers,” said Tiara Smolinski, B.S.N., the NICU's unit director. “Our hope is that AngelEye not only promotes bonding and provides comfort and reassurance, but also reduces stress and anxiety for families when they can’t be here."
Using an easy-to-access app and their own phone, computer or tablet, familes can see their child's progress via a bedside camera that captures every movement in real-time. NICU clinical staff also use AngelEye to send parents vital updates as well as texts, photos or recorded videos.
The AngelEye Platform also gives hospital staff an online education solution with hospital-specific information as well as expertly curated NICU-focused content, allowing parents to be active members of their infant's care.
Since going live with the cameras in late October, the feedback from families has been overwhelmingly positive. “The addition of AngelEye has allowed us to receive pictures from the nurses, updates from the doctors, educational materials and videos of the milestones we have to miss," said one parent. "I used to call at least once in the middle of the night, but now with AngelEye I usually wake up to a picture and an update from his nurse and the doctor. These reassure me that my baby is doing ok, and I don’t need to pull the nurse away from their work to answer my phone call.”
In addition to providing uninterrupted access to their child, the cameras also allow the parents to share access with other family members who cannot visit or who live farther away. This is helpful when, like now, only two parents/guardians are allowed to visit in the NICU.
"This program was 100-percent funded through generous donations," said Smolinski. "We are so appreciative of that support and have already seen the difference that it has made for our NICU families."
To learn about ways to give, visit CarilionFoundation.org.