Helping premature babies thrive with family-centered care
New research hopes to show that everyone benefits when parents take on a greater role nurturing their premature babies in the hospital
Dec. 17, 2015
(Calgary, Alberta)…Deegan Charles is Janine Charles’ second premature (preterm) baby. Janine was in and out of the hospital for nearly a month as little Deegan was cared for by nurses and doctors, around the clock. Preterm babies can be susceptible to jaundice, infections, as well as respiratory, feeding, and behavioural problems. A new research project, funded jointly by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) and Alberta Health Services is being spearheaded by Karen Benzies, PhD and Abhay Lodha, MD to help families leave the hospital sooner with healthier preterm babies.
One in twelve babies is born preterm in Alberta. Parents must leave their preterm babies in the hospital to fully develop and become healthy enough to take home. Drs. Benzies and Lodha hope to change that model. They have a plan called Family Integrated Care (FICare). FICare proposes a new way to integrate the family into the care of their preterm baby. With the guidance of nurses, family members are integrated into the multidisciplinary health care team and provide routine care, such as holding and changing their preterm baby.
The team is hoping to show that babies looked after in this way will be discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in less time, and that the families will be better equipped to look after their preterm infants. “Currently, the length of stay for a preterm baby in a level II NICU is 16 days,” says Benzies.“ We’re hoping to reduce that number by at least ten per cent. We want parents to feel both confident and competent in the care of their preterm babies when they go home.”
“Family-integrated care empowers the parents to improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in taking care of a premature infant,” says Dr. Lodha. “Parents are often under stress and afraid to take their babies home because they aren’t involved from the start with the baby’s care. Our study will build that skill and confidence by involving the parents early on with our experienced and well-trained clinicians.”
“Research investments like these have the potential to improve Alberta’s health system and, more importantly, the lives of the patients we care for,” says Dr. Kathryn Todd, Alberta Health Services Vice-President Research, Innovation and Analytics. “Generating evidence that leads to new and better ways of doing things at the point of care is critical for building and sustaining a first-class health care system.”
“Innovation in health care often comes from research driven by people working within the health system. It is needs-driven and delivers benefits for caregivers, patients, and parents, says Dr. Pamela Valentine, AIHS CEO (Interim). “The research that Drs. Benzies and Lodha are undertaking promises to lead to healthier babies, resulting in happier, healthier families; and, that’s good for all Albertans.”
The Family Integrated Care study is open until March 2018. It will involve all ten level II NICU sites in Alberta with approximately 600 babies and their parents enrolled. The clinical staff in those locations will provide training to the parents, who will participate in the daily care with constant support of the multidisciplinary health care team. The study’s investigators will then look to see how these babies do over the long term and if these children develop fewer medical complications.
Alberta has one of the highest rates of pre-term births in Canada with one in twelve women delivering prematurely. The care of preterm infants represents the largest cost in pediatric health care at $35 million a year in the province. The study will look at hospital costs and out-of-pocket costs for parents.
The Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) supports excellence in research, innovation and knowledge translation to improve the health and well-being of children from pre-conception to adulthood. With our partners at the University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, our multi-disciplinary institute creates new knowledge to change practice and shape policy in ways that improve child health outcomes.
About the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Health System Fund:
PRIHS was established by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and Alberta Health Services in 2012 and these projects are the result of the second competition offered under the Fund in 2015.
Each grant is a three year opportunity valued at $750,000.
PRIHS supports networks of health researchers and clinical practitioners across the continuum of care, with an emphasis on population health and community and primary care. The networks assess potentially inefficient activities within the health system and identify sustainable solutions to improve overall quality of care and value for money in the health system.
The PRIHS-funded SCN projects look at technologies, services and processes in the health system that can be improved resulting in better patient outcomes and costs savings. The research evidence from the projects can help AHS make necessary improvements. With a focus on research as a driver of innovation, one of the goals of PRIHS is to create a culture of research expertise and uptake in the health system, which supports AHS’s commitment to quality. PRIHS also encourages collaborations between the SCNs and provincial universities to improve the health system.
Karen Benzies, PhD, RN is a full Professor and Associate Dean of Research (Acting) in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary. She is also an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Karen is also a co-lead for the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Health System (PRIHS) grant from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and Alberta Health Services.
Abhay Lodha, MD, is an Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics; Chair, Continuing Medical Education, Division of Neonatology within the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Dr. Lodha is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. He is a co-lead for the PRIHS grant from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and Alberta Health Services.
Khalid Aziz, MD is Professor of Pediatrics at University of Alberta, Edmonton Alberta. He is also a Neonatologist in the Edmonton Neonatal Program. He is a co-lead for the PRIHS grant from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and Alberta Health Services.
Vibhuti Shah, MD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. She is a co-lead on the PRIHS grant from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and Alberta Health Services.