New system to ease neonatal stress

By Lori Reid

Published: 25/11/2009

Researchers in Aberdeen are developing a new computer system which aims to ease the stress of parents whose ill or premature newborns are in neonatal care.

The BabyTalk programme has been created by a team at Aberdeen University.

The system sends parents daily updates of their babies conditions while they are in neonatal wards. Now researchers are looking for parents from the north-east, Tayside and Fife who had a baby in neonatal care at some stage in the last 10 years, to try it out.

Saad Mahamood from the university’s department of computing said: “Our new system will produce secure automatic online updates about the baby so that parents can get news day and night, even when they are away from the ward.

“When a baby is in a neonatal ward their medical details are recorded in a database by the hospital.

“BabyTalk takes the information produced by this database and creates a simple text version of what has happened to the baby within the last 24 hours.

“The text produced by the system is personalised to the baby’s condition and tailored to take into account whether the parents will be experiencing stressful or less stressful circumstances.

“While this does not replace talking to medical staff it provides an extra source of information and support for the parents, helping to decrease their anxiety.”

Volunteers taking part in the study will be asked to look at a range of short text reports and discuss how they felt after reading them.

Wendy Moncur, a computer scientist who is part of the research team, has had experience of having a sick newborn baby. Her son James, who is now 11, developed pneumonia soon after birth and had to spend five days in a special-care baby unit.

She said: “I understand from experience what a scary time it is when your child is in neonatal care. The study is an opportunity to have input into technology which could improve the experience of parents whose babies are admitted into neonatal care.”

Volunteers can take part in the study from home or at the university. Volunteers from Aberdeen city and shire can contact Saad Mahamood on 01224 274173. For Tayside and Fife can call Wendy Moncur on 01382 386538.

Putting in place your financial goals