MedNow Telehealth Technology in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Having your baby admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is difficult on the entire family. There are times babies are born and are unable to meet their family, instead requiring immediate high level care. Many families are separated by geography during this stressful time as well as being unable to be together for medical reasons. Babies transported to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital (HDVCH) in Grand Rapids from outlying hospitals are separated from their mother while mom recovers in the hospital where she gave birth. Many families in these situations are forced to wait until it is medically appropriate for them to be together or even see each other for the first time. 

In September 2016 the NICU care team implemented new technology to bridge the distance gap and bring families together by utilizing MedNow to facilitate virtual family visits to the NICU. MedNow is a telehealth program that was created in 2014 and facilitates virtual connections between Spectrum Health staff and providers to patients and families. In partnership with the MedNow team, an interdisciplinary HDVCH Family Focused NICU MedNow Implementation Team was formed to develop strategy to reach families that previously received little face to face interaction with care providers and restricted time with their new baby. MedNow helps build the bond between a mother and her new baby; connects the team with families unable to be present during rounds; and eases the nerves of families concerned about what the hospital is truly like for their baby.

Progression of MedNow technology in NICU:

  • Offered virtual meetings between mom in an outlying facility and the HCVCH NICU. Mom could see her baby and also meet with the neonatologist to receive an update on plan of care and get any questions answered. (2016)
  • Implemented NICU Family Connection portion that supported use of a webcam and a WebEx meeting to 24/7 live stream a baby to mom and family. Mom and family can access this stream from any mobile device or computer, no matter their location. (2017)
  • Implemented improved MedNow carts that make it much easier for staff to facilitate these virtual meetings with our partners across the region. (2018)

The following is a Family Focused MedNow experience recalled by Gabriel Laney, BSN, RN, nurse manager, NICU:

NICUOne of the most exciting moments about being a nurse in the NICU is having the opportunity to be involved with a growing family. Whether it’s welcoming their first child into the world or seeing siblings eyes light up when they meet their new little brother or little sister this experience is truly special. However, nothing can be more devastating than knowing your child is sick and you can’t be there to support them, you can’t be there to ask questions, and you can’t even see them.

In April 2017, we used MedNow to serve our first family from Spectrum Health Zeeland Hospital. This family gave birth to a beautiful little boy who required the services of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital NICU in Grand Rapids. When we had him set up in his room we brought the MedNow cart into the room and made sure it was set up in a way that mom could have a great view of her son and feel like she was in the room with him. We coordinated with Zeeland Hospital nurses, as they brought a MedNow cart into the mom’s room and the powerful interaction that resulted was nothing less than inspiring. When the call initiated and mom was able to finally see her son for the first time the tears were coming down for everyone that was in the room. As she called out his name his eyes opened and he looked around the room and the positive impact of this interaction was clearly visible. Our neonatologist was able to be present for this and had a great conversation with mom regarding her son’s plan of care and answered all of her questions to ease her anxiety about his hospitalization. These are moments that remind all of us why we do what we do every day and this special moment would not have been possible without the great help and support of MedNow.

In fiscal year 2017 there were 38 total Family Focused MedNow visits in the HDVCH NICU. That number soared to 80 MedNow visits in fiscal year 2018. Families are now able to stay connected via technology to learn health status updates sooner, receive education, promote bonding and ease anxiety.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Family Focused NICU MedNow Implementation Team

Katrena Froh, BS, CCLS, CEIM, CPST, Child Life Specialist
Jared Cowan, MBA, BS, MedNow Manager
Joan Rikli, MBA, MSN, RN, CPNP, NE-BC, Director of NICU & Pediatric Services
Lynette Johnson, BSN, RN, MSA, Clinical Outreach Coordinator
Edgar Beaumont, MD, Neonatologist
Sherri Hoard, BSN, RN, Nurse Manager
Gabe Laney, BSN, RN, Nurse Manager
Jason Powell, PT, CNT, Rehabilitation Services Lead
Marlie Lieberman, PT, DPT, C/NDT, Physical Therapist
Alisha Tichenor, NNP-BC, Lead Neonatal Nurse Practitioner