This article was published in the Quilt Circle 2013
In early 2013, the Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN), in conjunction with the University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Quilt member MOREnet, will launch its new Telehealth Love and Care Program (TLC). This free service will offer two-way videoconferencing, allowing families located throughout the state to see their newborn babies and interact with the care team in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia, Mo.
MOREnet began offering Mobile Videoconferencing through Vidyo in 2011, allowing members to offer users a mobile video experience that can be accessed on desktops, laptops, smart phones and personal tablet devices, transforming almost any device into an HD-quality videoconferencing endpoint.
Rachel Mutrux, director of the Missouri Telehealth Network—a MOREnet member, was looking for just this type of technology. “Many other large hospitals offer video services to the parents and guardians of NICU patients, but we were looking for a way to make this communication two-way so interaction could also take place,” states Mutrux. “Half of the babies in our NICU are transported to Columbia from other places. In many cases the mom needs to stay in the regional hospital while the baby is in our hospital here in Columbia. It is important for the mother to stay and heal in the hospital, not leave early to see the baby. This technology allows mom to see the baby and communicate with the care givers in NICU.” Also, if a baby has to stay in the NICU for an extended period of time, moms, dads and siblings can use TLC to visit the baby when they can’t physically be at the hospital.
So staff from three University of Missouri entities – MOREnet, MTN and Women’s and Children’s Hospital – began to work together to define the software, equipment and logistical requirements that would morph MOREnet’s mobile videoconferencing service to meet the unique needs of parents and babies in mid-Missouri. “All of the technology was in place to offer just what Rachel was looking for,” states George Miller, MOREnet video consultant and project manager of the TLC Program for MOREnet. “It was just a matter of tailoring it to fit the needs of this unique program.”
The TLC Program will use MOREnet’s secure Mobile Videoconferencing to connect family members to the NICU where care providers will use iPads to conduct the videoconference. Family members can connect from their locations via any mobile or desktop device that has adequate Internet connectivity and webcam functionality. This could include their local hospital, home or even their local library. Fifteen top referral hospitals within Missouri will also be equipped with laptop computers for the purpose of connecting families and new moms with their babies who have been transported to Columbia’s NICU.
This project is funded through the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon and the Missouri Telehealth Network, with technology support from MOREnet. As such, it is free of charge for the families of babies in the NICU at Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
About the Missouri Telehealth Network
The Missouri Telehealth Network began in 1994 as one of the nation's first public-private partnerships in telehealth. MTN has a two-gigabit (2 Gbps) backbone infrastructure that is managed by MOREnet and funded with federal, state and institutional dollars. This network connects to the Internet via a high-speed intrastate network consisting of six major circuits connecting several major population centers in the state. Missouri Telehealth Network has more than 202 sites in 62 Missouri counties.