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Internet Helps Parents of Preemies

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Researchers found that parents with access used the electronic system daily, mostly looking at their infant's home page and the photograph gallery but also taking advantage of educational materials and the opportunity to ask questions of staffers online.

"One of the big issues when we release a baby is whether the family -- and community that will be taking care of that baby -- is ready," Gray says. "Some of these babies weigh as little as four pounds when they go home. We need to know that the parents and extended caregivers are capable and confident in their ability to provide care for the infant. And this program helps us with that."

Warren B. Karp, PhD, DMD, who has run a similar program for mostly rural children with special healthcare needs, says the benefits of telemedicine services reach not only the parents, but other family members, friends and general practitioners. Karp is professor emeritus at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where telemedicine has been studied for more than a decade.

"At our institution, family members routinely have to travel as much as 200 miles to visit a child in the NICU, and what generally happens is that only one parent can make the trip," Karp tells WebMD. "We have found that with home telemedicine, other family members, as well as neighbors and friends, get involved. We found that the average number of people in a room during a telemedicine visit was four. Obviously when grandma, or a neighbor, or an aunt observes the televisit, they are also learning how to care for the child, just like the parents."

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