Setting the scene: One in every eight infants requires some form of care in a neonatal unit. While the survival and long-term prospects of infants are enhanced by admission, the enforced separation of the mother and baby may have psychological consequences for both. In this report we present findings from an evaluation of a new digital solution designed to help parents ‘keep in touch’ with their infants when they are physically separated from them. Currently deployed in a neonatal unit in NHS Fife, the intervention, mylittleone, involves cameras being placed over incubators which transmit real-time images of each baby wirelessly to a coupled tablet device kept by the mother in the post-natal care environment. The study sought to explore parents’ and professionals’ views of the technology and make recommendations for its future development, deployment and evaluation.
What did we do? In Phase 1 interviews were conducted with 33 parents and 21 professionals. In Phase 2 a systematic review of the literature was undertaken to identify valid and reliable questionnaires for potential use in a future trial to assess the clinical effectiveness of the technology. In Phase 3 parents were consulted on the acceptability of the questionnaires identified in Phase 2.
What did we find?
Phase 1 The majority of the parents and professionals believed mylittleone was an important advancement in the provision of neonatal care. Narratives focused on enhanced feelings of closeness and responsiveness towards the baby, physical and emotional well-being and inclusion of the wider family and friends. In contrast, while acknowledging some benefits in its use, a small number of parents believed mylittlone had increased their anxiety levels and so their preference was not to use it. Staff working in the neonatal unit discussed the occasional impact of the technology on their workload and care priorities.
Phase 2: Following the screening process, 34 papers met the criteria for inclusion in the review. Assessment of the methodological quality of the papers, and the measurement properties and feasibility and acceptability of the questionnaires, resulted eight being taken forward to Phase 3.
Phase 3: Consultation with parents resulted in the selection of four questionnaires for use in a future trial: the Mother-to-Infant Bonding Scale; the Perceived Stress Scale; the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; and, the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale.
Recommendations: The current qualitative evaluation provides sufficient support to recommend use of mylittleone in other neonatal units in Scotland and to consider extending its use to the home environment. A key issue is that mothers of babies receiving care in a neonatal unit may be discharged weeks or months in advance of their baby and, while they will visit their baby regularly, long periods of separation are inevitable. The effectiveness of mylittleone in encouraging bonding and in addressing various indicators of post-natal adjustment (e.g. stress, wellbeing) should now be assessed in a clinical trial.
Place of Publication|
Glasgow Caledonian University|
Digital Health & Care Institute |
Number of pages|
Published - 2016|