St. Jude Medical Center [in Fullerton, California] is one of the first hospitals in the country to implement a webcam system called NICVIEW, which gives parents a virtual window to their newborns. Most of the babies in St. Jude's neonatal intensive care unit, which has 14 incubators, are born prematurely and are released within four or five days. Some, however, stay for months.
The password-protected webcam system is also being used at a handful of hospitals across the country, including UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Deaconess Women's Hospital in Newburgh, Indiana. Parkview Community Hospital Medical Center in Riverside, California, expects to introduce the system in the next few weeks.
Numerous other facilities are exploring the idea or looking for funding. Cameras run about $1,000 each in addition to an annual service fee that covers technical support and other costs.
Those who have used the system said it is well worth the investment.
"The family feels that they are really connected to their infant, which is important for bonding. In the past, the bonding process had to be instituted every few days," said Dr. David Hicks, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Jude Medical Center. "The family dynamics are improved."
Image: Camera, via Shutterstock.