Over a period of 9 months, the researchers collected 153 quality of life measurements from 48 families. Of these, 48 occurred at enrollment, 23 occurred less than 1 week after enrollment, 30 occurred 1-2 weeks after enrollment, 28 occurred 3-4 weeks after enrollment, and 24 occurred 4 weeks or more after enrollment. By study closure, the researchers had follow-up data on 44 of the 48 families. The average gestational age at birth was 29.3 weeks, the average day of life at enrollment was 25.4, and the average birth weight was 1,280 grams.
On the app’s composite survey, 14.6% “agreed” and 79.2% “strongly agreed” that they were currently using a smart phone or tablet to look for information about preemies/NICU on the Internet, and about half “agreed” or “strongly agreed” (27.1% and 33.3%, respectively) that they spent more than 30 minutes per week looking up information about their NICU baby online. Nearly all families “agreed” or “strongly agreed” (14.6% and 85.4%) that they had a smart phone or tablet for Internet use in the NICU, and nearly all “agreed” or “strongly agreed” (33.3% and 62.5%) that having an app at the NICU bedside/home would be helpful. “This showed us that families were ready to use technology and interested in something like PreeMe+You at the bedside,” Ms. Whitney said.
At the time of study enrollment, 12 were in the purple stage, 8 were in the blue stage, 19 infants were in the orange stage, and 9 were in the yellow stage. Ms. Whitney reported that based on the PedsQL Family Impact Module, 35 of the 44 families showed increased quality of life functionality after participating in the study. This change was significant, with a P value of .001. Improvements were seen in the measure’s eight domains (physical, emotional, social, cognitive, communication, worry, daily activities, and family relationship functionality). “We saw increases across all of the domains based on how long the parents had been using the app,” Ms. Whitney said. “We found the biggest increase in quality of life in families of babies born less than 25 weeks’ gestational age, those born 25-26 weeks gestational age, those born 27-28 weeks gestational age, and those born 33-37 weeks gestational age. We are encouraged to see some of these quality of life changes in some of the earliest-born gestation babies because these are presumably the families that would have the longest time to go in the NICU and could benefit the most from using an app like PreeMe+You.”
She acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the fact that it was conducted in two NICUs, “and we definitely need more comparisons to look at the natural trajectory of quality of life changes while families are in the NICU. Also, all of the families enrolled in our study had access to a research team that checked in with them weekly. In the real world, PreeMe+You would probably be self-guided.” Going forward, PreeMe+You plans to include additional features to give parents more self-guidance, making it easier for them to interact and partner with their baby’s medical team.
Funding for the study was provided by theMs. Whitney was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.