New app allows parents to check on baby in NICU from home

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CHICAGO — It’s certainly not what Brianne and Thomas Harper expected — they’ve been in the Prentice Women’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) since July.

That’s when their son Waylon arrived more than three months early after Brianne experienced complications from pre-eclampsia … her blood pressure dangerously high.

“He was one pound, eight ounces. Really little," Brianne said.

Like many preemies, Waylon struggled with respiratory and feeding problems. Brianne takes the day shift at her son’s side, while her husband comes right after work.

"It does get painful being away all day, and sometimes the hardest part is not knowing what is going on especially since it’s a delicate situation,"  Thomas said.

But, thankfully, an update on Waylon is just a few taps away.

"The way that we really figured this out was that parents told us they called every morning to check on these particular things, so we said why don’t we make it easier for parents and why don’t we make it easier for nurses and allow them to get that data in the apps,” said Dr Craig Garfield, Northwestern Medicine Pediatric Hospitalist.

And that’s how the NICU2HOME app was born.

"We tell parents a lot of information. There’s a lot to learn when their baby is first admitted here. Mom has just gone through labor, they may have been up for hours and hours, and they come in and there’s a lot we want to let them know, but they may not be ready," Garfield said.

When they are ready — it’s all there. Garfield helped find the right formula for anxious parents. An algorithm delivers personalized and timely articles, there’s a social networking feature and daily care team updates.

"You can check at shift change, you can see, ‘Oh, this nurse is coming on. He really likes her, and she’s really good with him,'" Brianne said.

And parents can see their baby’s progress.

"They can look back and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we started at a pound, and now we’re at two pounds,’ or, ‘When we started, the baby couldn’t breathe on his own,’" Garfield said. "It’s a way to support parents and let them know even in the darkest times you are still making progress, and we’re here with you to support you. We’ll get to the finish line together.

When Brianne and Thomas are able to take a quick break outside of the NICU, they can stay connected to their son.

"He’s actually doing really good right now. We’ve had some roller coasters of ups and downs, but we are able to breathe and we’re happy, and we’re in a good spot today," Thomas said.

We have good news to report -- baby Waylon is home!

The NICU2HOME app development was funded by Friends of Prentice.

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