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App at Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital allows NICU families to check on baby

During a time of limited visitation, app provides updates to families

MACON, Ga. — Hospitals around the country are limiting visitors, especially in neonatal intensive care units, but a new app at Beverly Knight Olson Children's Hospital is helping families stay connected with their newborn babies.

The app is helping families like Alana Alvarez’s, whose daughter is currently in the NICU after weighing less than a pound at birth.

“I didn’t know much about parenting, much less a complicated parenting like this one,” said Alvarez. “As a new mom, it’s hard because she’s not with me.”

Now with the Vocera Ease app, Alvarez is, well, at ease.

The phone application allows nurses and doctors to have regular communication with families of the NICU, not just with the two essential visitors the hospital allows due to COVID-19 precaution.

“There’s no limitation on the amount of family you can have on there,” said Senior Vice President of Vocera Ease, Patrick de la Roza.

He said each chat on average has at least five family members.

“Honestly, the little captions with the picture make my day,” said Alvarez.

The emojis also play an important part.

According Director of Pediatric and Women’s Services Missi Upshaw, more than 2,200 emojis have been sent and received since launching a month ago.

 “Emojis are very sacred to a lot of folks,” said Upshaw. “Sometimes just getting a thumbs up, a heart, or the praying hands means so much to a family.”

As for Baby Grace, Alvarez said she’s doing well but will have to stay at the children’s hospital for a while longer.  

The first-time mother isn’t too worried.

 “The fact that I can’t be in contact with her as I am right now, it is incredible. I am so thankful for this app.”

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