Tuesday, 18 December 2018 06:18

CSIRO develops tech to aid parents of premature babies

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Premature twins Zachary and Sebastian will be spending Christmas at The Townsville Hospital but will still be connected with their family. Premature twins Zachary and Sebastian will be spending Christmas at The Townsville Hospital but will still be connected with their family. Supplied

Telemedicine researchers at Australia's national science agency, the CSIRO, have developed new video-streaming technology to help parents stay connected to their premature babies while in hospital.

A statement from the CSIRO said the technology allowed parents to watch live video of their babies using a mobile phone app. A trial of the technology is underway.

One of the women involved in testing out the technology, Samantha Hayden, who has pre-term twins Zachary and Sebastian, said she was happy to be able to see her babies whenever she wanted.

The twins spent the first weeks of their lives in The Townsville Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

“If I get up in the middle of the night, I can turn on my phone and see my boys wriggling and moving,” said Hayden. “I’m immediately reassured.”

shayden

Samantha Hayden with her pre-term twins, Zachary and Sebastian.

CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre chief executive Dr David Hansen said the technology was meant to ease the worries of parents who often had to leave their newborn babies in hospital when they returned home.

“This affordable solution has been engineered with privacy and security features and uses the mobile phones families already have – which makes the technology widely accessible,” Dr Hansen said.

“While all Australians will benefit from digital health technologies, their ability to provide equity of access to health services for rural and remote Australia will be profound.”

The app provides a secure channel for parents to watch their babies after it is installed on a smartphone.

Townsville Hospital’s neonatal specialist Dr Yoga Kandasamy said of the 900 babies treated annually in the NICU, about a third were from regional and remote parts of north and north-west Queensland.

“These babies are often with us for many months,” he said. “Parents have only two choices: uproot and move to Townsville, or become temporarily separated from their babies.”

The CSIRO said more than 35 parents had already used the app to stay connected with their offspring.

The trial is being conducted jointly by The Townsville Hospital and Health Service (with funding via a SERTA grant), CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre and James Cook University, with Optus donating 10 mobile phones and data.

Photos: courtesy CSIRO

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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