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Mobile app to support parents and carers of premature babies

A mobile app has been launched to support parents and carers with babies in the Rosie Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Unit (NICU).

My Little Journey app
My Little Journey app

An app aims to help make visits less stressful for families visiting NICU, with a range of 360-degree visual tours, clinical information, relaxation techniques and even games for anxious guardians and siblings. Consultant neonatologist Professor Topun Austin, who played a key role in the design of the app said:

This is a unique resource, with support and information for every stage of their child’s journey through NICU, from birth through to discharge and beyond. The app supports the whole family through what can be a stressful time with engaging content which informs, reassures and ultimately empowers them.

Consultant neonatologist Professor Topun Austin, Addenbrooke's Hospital

The Little Journey app, which was originally designed to help reassure children before they go to hospital for an operation, has been specifically modified to meet the needs of parents and carers with babies at NICU.

Professor Austin added:

We see this app as a digital “helping hand”, which can help reduce parents’ and carers’ anxiety providing easily accessible information about where their baby is being looked after as well as clinical information relevant to their care.

Professor Topun Austin

The app provides information on neonatal care, common medical conditions and treatments, transfers to another NICU or local unit, going home, and palliative care and bereavement. There are also virtual ‘360 degree’ tours of different parts of NICU and the PaNDR transport ambulance.

Prof Austin continued: “Visiting hospital can be anxiety-provoking for families, and the Little Journey app helps prepare them for their visits through fun, interactive and tailored-information that is always at their fingertips.”

Consultant neonatologist and Director of the Evelyn Perinatal Imaging Centre, Prof Austin and his team worked with colleagues from East of England Neonatal Operational Delivery Network. They received funding the Health Foundation Q Community to look at ways digital technologies could help parents with babies on the NICU. Professor Austin added:

We contacted NIHR Cambridge BRC to find out how best to get feedback and they facilitated a parent focus group, who loved the idea of an app designed to support parents and carers of babies in NICU. We then got in touch with Little Journey, and they worked with families to develop the app tailored to the needs of parents and carers of babies on NICU.

Professor Topun Austin
Professor Topun Austin using the Little Journey app
Professor Topun Austin using the app

The Little Journey app is one of several innovations selected by the NHS Inovation Accelerator initiative for its potential to enable patient and NHS staff benefit.

Modification of the app was funded by the Health Foundation Q Community with support from the NIHR Brain Injury Med Tech Cooperative (now the HealthTech Research Centre for Brain Injury) and NIHR Cambridge BRC.

Currently the app is being rolled out across five hospitals in the East of England, but the aim is for a regional and then a national roll-out.

There is also scope within the app for it to be broadened to include clinical research projects. Prof Austin said: “We’ve seen how Little Journey can promote trial recruitment and cut early withdrawal, and this is a feature we would like to enable over time.” (opens in a new tab)