Innovative technology keeps families connected at Royal Hospital for Children

By Lucy Ashton

Parents have praised staff and an innovative use of technology for helping them stay connected with their family and loved ones, while their child was in hospital over the festive period.

Little Alfie Coyne, right,  was born nine weeks early at 31 weeks and has been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow since.

This meant he wasn’t able to spend Christmas and New Year at home with mum Elizabeth, dad George and his brothers and sister. However, thanks to the hospital’s vCreate technology, his siblings and extended family were able to keep up to date with everything that was happening.

vCreate is an NHS-Trusted secure video messaging service that helps patients, families and clinical teams stay connected throughout their care journey. Through the vCreate platform, which is supported by the NHSGGC-hosted West of Scotland Innovation Hub, patients and their families can register on a secure digital platform to exchange videos and photos with members of their clinical team to offer a faster diagnosis and quicker access to treatment.

Elizabeth said: “I have been at the hospital every day, but vCreate has been so helpful in making sure all of us know how Alfie is doing and that he is getting such amazing care. It’s such a great thing.

“You don’t really get much sleep during situations like this but even knowing you’ll wake up to an overnight update from staff on your phone keeps you going and it makes your day to see pictures and videos of him doing so well.

“Myself and my partner George have been able to visit Alfie and stay with him, but his siblings and extended family haven’t, so vCreate has meant we are able to share real-time updates with everyone and they feel more connected to Alfie because of this too.

“There are also times where we can’t be on the ward, for example if there is a theatre happening with another child, but the staff are amazing in keeping you updated through this system, you know exactly what is happening and how well Alfie is being looked after, even if you can’t be there.”

Alfie, who has Down Syndrome, was born on December 16 and has been in hospital since as he looks to build up his strength before being able to go home with his family.

Elizabeth added: “The team have been amazing, can’t thank them enough. The level of care throughout this whole journey has just been incredible. We’re now seeing big improvements and are hoping that Alfie will be able to be home in February for what would have been his due date, but we will see how it goes.

“He’s doing amazing, he wasn’t on milk before and had to have an operation which was a success and now he is on milk. He’s putting on weight and is alert and active, he is a truly amazing wee boy.

“Through vCreate we can look back and see how well he has progressed since his treatment started. This is a worrying times, so the system has helped me cope better, it makes me see that he is well looked after, when I’m not there and I know if he is settling overnight.”

Dr Neil Patel, Neonatologist for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Our journey with vCreate actually started when a parent of one of our patients in the Neonatal Unit at the RHC asked if there was a secure way that he could check on his child when he couldn’t be by the bedside. So from this we explored ways of being able to do this and began working with vCreate and our approach was developed through the West of Scotland Innovation Hub before we started to roll it out across NHSGGC and beyond.

“This can often be a very worrying time for families, so we wanted to do everything we could to help them stay connect. We’re so pleased to see so many families, including Alfie’s, using the system and telling us about the real benefits they are experiencing through it.

“Staff here provide the highest standard of patient-centred care every day, and this is another example of the ways that we work to ensure the children and families in our care are put first. We’re delighted with how Alfie is doing, he’s a remarkable wee boy and it’s been amazing for our staff to see how well he is progressing.”

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