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IWK Health, Cisco Canada and OnX Canada power critical connections between babies and families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Mother sits in darkened room looking at computer screen, infant sleeps on her chest

IWK Health announced the success of its web-delivered application – Chez NICU Home – and securely powered Cisco Webex technologies to connect NICU families to education, supports, and resources they need to become more active participants in the care of their babies, driving healthier outcomes for families. Leveraging technology to provide critical support and virtual connections has helped more than 450 families thrive during their stay in the NICU.

Chez NICU Home offers families evidence-based education related to NICU care that can be accessed anytime, anywhere at their convenience. From daily care activities, feeding and nursing, to the discharge process and understanding common NICU conditions, Chez NICU Home provides families the information and resources they need, while also tracking their baby’s daily progress.

“Our research team found that babies in the NICU do better when parents are present and more actively involved in care. Chez NICU Home was designed to inspire, connect, and support families throughout their NICU experience,” said Denise Lalanne, Director, Innovation, Technology and Redevelopment , IWK Health. “Along with Cisco and Webex video devices, we’re delivering a virtual care model at scale that involves families in their baby’s daily care to ensure healthier outcomes for all.”

Chez NICU Home was developed with the support and financial contribution from the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the IWK Foundation, which was announced on March 1, 2017. The project was a collaboration across IWK Health that included Innovation Services, a team of researchers, clinicians, and IT – in partnership with Cisco Canada and OnX – to launch the web-based application.

“This project represents Government of Canada support working as intended – translating innovative collaborations into real-time applications with life-saving implications,” said Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament for Halifax. “But the incalculably important benefit is the reassurance, the connection and the peace of mind it provides the parents of children at their most vulnerable during an emotional and challenging time for the entire family. There is an equal emphasis on health and care in this equation, as it should be.”

Each NICU room is equipped with a high-quality Webex video device and collaboration technology that connects families to appointments with healthcare providers and local health professionals, or to family members who are unable to be there in person. For example, if spouses need to care for other children out of town, they can virtually participate in clinical rounds via Webex to get the latest update on the baby’s progress.

“Powering a family’s connection to their newborn and critical support during their stay in the NICU is a special thing. We are proud to help make a family’s stay in the NICU less stressful,” said Shannon Leininger, President, Cisco Canada. “Virtual care has removed boundaries and barriers to information and healthcare. The Chez NICU Home model allows families to actively participate in their baby’s health regardless of their location, while keeping them connected to healthcare providers and loved ones outside of the NICU during those long days and nights.”

The feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating the effectiveness of virtual care, education, and resources to families. Parents are grateful to receive additional support and learnings during a stressful time, with 97% of users agreeing that the lessons delivered through the project were helpful.

“Through the support of our donors, the IWK Foundation is proud to be a part of Chez NICU Home,” said Jennifer Gillivan, President & CEO, IWK Foundation. “The past two years have truly demonstrated the power and importance of connection. Chez NICU Home is able to bring the IWK’s NICU team and patient families together during this critical time in their child’s life.” 

OnX Canada, a Cisco Gold partner and a trusted collaboration solution provider to IWK, was engaged at all levels to design a highly tailored communication solution that harnessed the full capabilities of Webex. 

“Our team took this program to heart, knowing that the technology would positively impact so many lives throughout the NICU,” said Paul Khawaja, President, OnX Canada. “By taking the time to understand the range of needs of healthcare providers and families, the specialized healthcare collaboration solution we provided will deliver lasting benefits for all.”