Aim This paper will report findings from the first phase of an evaluation of a new e-health intervention designed to allow mothers to ‘see’ their baby in neonatal care (NNU) when they are not able to be with them. The intervention, MyLittleOne, involves a web-camera being placed over the incubator in NNU, which transmits a real-time video wirelessly to a coupled tablet device at the mother’s bedside. Guided by the MRC Framework for the Development and Evaluation of Healthcare Interventions (MRC, 2008), the aim was to explore parent and professional views of the technology and make recommendations for its future development, use and evaluation.
Methods A qualitative approach was adopted, guided by a critical realist perspective (McEvoy and Richards, 2003).
The study took place in a Level 3 NNU in Scotland. Participants were recruited purposively and included parents (n = 33) and a range of health professionals working in neonatal and postnatal care (n = 21).
The data were collected during semi-structured individual, paired and small group interviews and were analysed thematically using NVivo v10.
Results The majority of parents and professionals spoke positively about MyLittleOne. Perceptions were that: use of the technology assisted bonding and responsiveness; it promoted the recovery process following birth; and, for mothers who wished to breast-feed, being able to see their baby on the tablet device encouraged the ‘let-down’ reflex. An additional benefit was that siblings and others who may not be able to visit the NNU were able to see the baby. In contrast, for a small number of mothers, viewing their baby remotely appeared to increase their levels of anxiety. Switching off the camera during a medical procedure and back on after the procedure was completed was found to be problematic, at times and in different ways, for both parents and professionals.
Conclusions Findings from this preliminary evaluation will guide future developments of the technology, including its use in family homes following the mother’s discharge. The findings will also inform the design of a feasibility study and subsequent RCT to assess the impact of MyLittleOne on a range of psychological indicators of postnatal adjustment.
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