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.
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