One key to improving outcomes of preemies is parental engagement. Although both the doctors and nurses in the NICU are hugely important, it is only the parents and caregivers who can truly advocate for their child’s wellbeing.
Active parent involvement in preterm infant caregiving promotes parent- infant attachment and leads to higher breastfeeding rates, earlier discharge, and improved long-term neurodevelopment. Despite decades of evidence of the positive effects of parental involvement, parents remain for the most part passive bystanders in the NICU setting. Even with many NICUs adopting a Family-Centered Care (FCC) approach, parent-infant contact and parenting skills remain well below desired levels.
Family Integrated Care (FI-Care) is a novel intervention that differs from FCC because it formally teaches and supports parents to be primary caregivers for their infants and restructures the relationship between parents and clinicians so that parents are fully integrated into the care team. There is strong evidence from a large, well-designed research studyl conducted in Canada and Australia that FI-Care improves infant growth and breastfeeding rates and reduces maternal stress. However, these findings do not carry over to US NICUs where parents face many barriers - such as distance, employment, lack of paid parental leave or other responsibilities and family commitments - to involvement in their infant’s NICU care.
Our solution - We3 health - is the first of its kind secure, HIPAA-compliant, mobile application to capture high quality data about parent involvement in NICU caregiving and to deliver essential elements of the FI-Care program remotely.
Over the past year Will's Way Foundation and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital have partnered to to advance ‘Family Integrated Care’ and – more innovatively - and more build the We3 health application.
This application brings together three partners – medical staff, parents and child, and has a triad purpose: to educate, encourage, and engage the parent in the care of their child in the NICU.
So, what will change for a child’s wellbeing as a result of this application?
Firstly, the parent will no longer be a passive bystander watching their child be cared for by the nurses. Instead, they will be actively involved in the care of their baby, being able to take part in rounds and, crucially, make decisions for their child.
When parents start using the application with their smartphone or tablet, they will straightaway be able to orient themselves to the concept of ‘Family Integrated Care’ and act as their baby’s primary caregiver throughout the NICU stay.
In addition, the app will allow them to:
* Participate in-person or access the content remotely at their convenience.
* Participate in daily medical rounds either in-person or remotely.
* Receive peer support from alumni parents.
*Document time spent with their infant and record infant activity, feeds and output.
* Journal of observations of their infant and their own NICU experience.
*Track their learning and skills acquisition.
The short-term results are extremely encouraging, revealing that children whose parents are involved in family integrated care leave hospital earlier, eat better, have a higher weight gain, and fewer instances of readmission.
Additionally, parents feel more qualified to care of their child and have reduced levels of stress.
In summary, the app helps improve outcomes for preterm babies so that they don't only survive but thrive. A direct impact to short and long term wellbeing for the most fragile babies!