App connects parents with their babies in NICU

EASE first introduced at Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital

By Melodi Smith - Multimedia Journalist

Since Mia McNeil was born in September she has been described as a fighter from doctors and nurses overseeing her care at the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando.

“Mia is a fighter. She has been screaming her head off since Day One. I have taken care of her since day one,” nurse Karyn Brewer told News 6.

Mia whose due date was December was born early weighing in at over 1 pound 5 ounces.

As she grows stronger and progresses, Brewer has been able to capture Mia’s moments through photos and video via the Electronic Access to Surgical Events, or EASE, app.

The app allows Mia’s parents, Gabriela and Mike McNeil, to see her grow as they go back to work. “We get to do that while we are here so that's why the ease app is great. So when we are not here we are still getting updates here,” Gabriela McNeil said.

The app allows nurses in the unit to use one of the nine iPads they have to scan the babies' bar code and send an customized message to mom and dad. The app also allows instant updates to be shared with grandparents, aunts, uncles or friends via a link invitation.

One moment Brewer was able to capture through a photo was a milestone parents look forward to, the first smile.“For me, it’s when Karyn captured her first smile. I mean that just melts your heart right there. That’s just super special,” McNeil said. Brewer feels a great honor to have been a part of capturing that moment for them.

“To let them see something that we get to its fabulous because we are here and they trust us we are holding their most prize possession and now we can help them see their baby all the time,” Brewer said.

Creation of EASE

Those first moments are something that EASE app creators Dr. Hamish Munro and Dr. Kevin de la Roza told News 6 are special to them.

Munro and de la Roza are anesthesiologists at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, wanted to provide something that would help loved ones as they waited for them to get out of surgery.

“We have always been conscious as physicians about the patient and frequently the family has been forgotten and we are in anesthesiology and every day we see a nervous family say goodbye to their loved ones,” Munro said.

The doctors knew that this area of health care had been neglected and they wanted to come up with a way to ease the process. The idea for EASE was born as a way to take the family from the operative experience to beyond.

‘Multiple levels of encryption’ for safety

With any new application and one that involves updates for a medical facility, security is always a concern.
De al Roza tells us that this is a top priority for the app.

“There are multiple levels of encryption that we have put into the back end of the system and these messages are encrypted as they are flying through the internet or when they are at rest in their phones,” he said.

None of the message can be saved at any time on anyone’s phone and the message disappear similar to one popular app that is on the market currently.


The first family to use EASE app

Munro and de la Roza told News 6 about the first time that a family used the app. The family had already had undergone multiple surgeries with their child and the third surgery they were able to use the app.

“They received the communications every 30 minutes or so,” Munro said.

One thing that always stayed with him once he talked with them was simple.

“This made all the difference they were able to compare their experience without it and their experience with EASE, he said.

“We could not imagine waiting for another surgery ever again without EASE,” he continued.

“If you are sitting in a waiting room and you are anxious 15 minutes can feel like 30 minutes,” Dr. Munro told News 6.

The app has taken off like wildfire, de la Roza and Munro said.

Adapting the app to the Winnie Palmer NICU

 

The app was adapted from the operating room on one side of Miller Street at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital to the other three months ago in the the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Children and Babies.

Dr. Jose Perez, medical director of the Winnie Palmer neonatal intensive care unit, knew that they needed help ensuring their tiny patients, who may be in the unit for several weeks,connect with their families, who may not be in Central Florida.

The question is how to maintain the connection with the babies at the bedside and parents at home, this is where EASE comes in.

“The EASE app helps parents during this time of tremendous stress,”Perez said.

The photos are able to help parents rest so they can focus on getting a balanced diet and rest during their child’s hospital stay.

Putting the parents at ease is something Gabriela McNeil said helped after she delivered Mia.

“It definitely helped me postpartum because I know there can be postpartum depression and I can tell you the EASE app was a huge factor in me not getting that,” she said.

The app also helped strengthen the bond between the McNeil family and Brewer as she has cared for Mia, which is something Perez has noticed between the relationship.

The nurses have worked taking the best photos and video updates to send to parents and they are very engaged doing so, Munro said.

“This application has allowed us to sort of continue the communication between nursing, which also has tremendous benefits for them taking pictures and connecting with their parents and for their babies to be seen by their parents,” Perez said.

A comfort level that the McNeil’s have developed with everyone that has been caring for their infant daughter.
“I think it's that constant reassurance that she is in the best hands possible, getting that app update throughout the day kind of made me just smile,” Mike McNeil said.

As for the next steps for EASE Munro and de la Roza are hoping to expand the app's function to go beyond the operating room and NICU and expand to be a comprehensive app from the first time you visit the hospital until you go home.

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