While many families can’t wait to take their babies home from the hospital, parents of premature babies, many weighing just over three pounds, don’t always experience that same joy. “Parents of these vulnerable preemies experience major stress and uncertainty as they get ready to care for their baby at home,” says Craig Garfield, MD, Director of Research, Hospital-Based Medicine at Lurie Children’s.
Seeing so many anxious parents prompted Dr. Garfield to look into ways to help ease their fears, starting with the families of very low birth weight (VLBW) premature babies. These babies are especially fragile: they make up 18% of premature births and have the longest average length of hospital stay, as well as highest rates of illness and re-hospitalization in the first year.
The solution took shape as a smartphone app called NICU-2-Home. The app is specifically designed to support parents of VLBW premature infants as they transition home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), in addition to the usual support they’d receive from nurses and doctors. The NICU-2-Home app includes many helpful resources for parents, such as a self-guiding hospital discharge checklist, multimedia educational information on NICU infant care, a tracker for daily activities and a mood tracker.
Dr. Garfield and his team studied the impact that using the app had on these families – and we’re happy to report that the results of the pilot study were encouraging. The study found that using the NICU-2-Home app may increase parenting self-efficacy and discharge preparedness. These results are published in the journal Internet Interventions.
Dr. Garfield explains the benefits: “We found that parents who used the app felt more prepared for discharge. With more use of the app, parents felt more competent and sure of themselves. The above average app users also saw the shortest overall hospital stay for their infants.”
“In all, this study shows the usefulness of mobile health technology to empower parents caring for the smallest infants. This intervention holds promising potential.”
To learn more about the research initiatives in the neonatal intensive care unit, visit our website.
All phases of this research were supported by a grant from the Agency for Health Research and Quality. Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge.