“One Degree”

by Priya Jacob, AngelEye Project Manager

They say that the destination of a flight completely changes if the trajectory is moved by one degree. Earlier this year, one of my most exciting projects to date went live. As a project manager for most of my healthcare career, I have had plenty of ‘Go Lives’ but not one that has tugged on my heart strings like this one did; especially one story in particular (but we’ll get to that- hang in there with me).

From the very beginning, South Georgia Medical Center (SGMC) has been incredibly innovative in their approach. As a facility nestled in a community with a lot of military families, SGMC understood the importance of bridging the gap for family members who were deployed and would miss out on one of life’s most precious milestones- having a baby (or babies). Accelerating the need to bridge the gap was an unexpected pandemic that forced healthcare facilities to make the choice, for the safety of both their patients and their staff, to limit visitation rights in and out of the hospital. This meant that grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, and others could not see their new family member until the baby was home. This can be especially taxing emotionally for a family who has a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This is where my job, and AngelEye, comes in.

AngelEye Health started as a healthcare company that provided cameras to NICUs so parents could watch their baby while away from the hospital. The COVID pandemic and the resulting limitations on visitation policies accelerated the need for and adoption of tele-engagement technologies. On this day, we saw a unique implementation of our services. SGMC expanded beyond the NICU to Post-Partum (PP), Labor and Delivery (L&D) and L&D Operating Rooms (OR). Remember how I told you that SGMC was innovative- well, they forged a path that we at AngelEye had never taken before. Not only did they put our NICU camera systems in these units, the SGMC team also decided that they wanted to add PatientConnect (one way text messages, videos and photos) and OnlineEducation to their platform. PatientConnect would help families get pictures and videos of memorable moments (like a video of baby’s first bath, or a picture of the baby in a super cute outfit- you know the ones where a baby is dressed up like Cupid for Valentine’s Day). OnlineEducation is the platform where all the resources that a new mom(s) or dad(s) would need to help them prepare to take care of their baby at home. From Car Seat Safety and Infant CPR to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Vaccine information, anything and everything you could think of that new parents need to prepare (or can you ever truly be fully prepared to have a baby, but you get my point) for their baby is available.

Alright, now that I have rambled on and on about what AngelEye does, let me get to the best part of the story. We started off the morning consenting and orienting mothers in the L&D Unit. There was a mom (let’s call her Janine) who had just delivered her baby and was in the room with her baby waiting to be transported to another Unit. Once we signed Janine up in the AngelEye system and had her camera streaming in L&D, we kept moving on to other moms in L&D. As the day progressed, I saw that Janine had added additional members to her family account (yeah, we can do that at AngelEye), and when I clicked into the additional members, I saw that a non-traditional family member was given access – Let’s call her Alice.  This essentially means that Alice would be able to view and bond with the baby that would soon be so important in her life. She gets a live feed of the baby, all the updates from the clinical staff, and can view pictures and videos that the clinical staff takes, just as Janine does. That part blew my mind!

We live in a world where we say technology connects people, and COVID has really pushed the envelope in expanding our opportunities to connect with people in the safest way possible, while still trying to keep the human element through it all. Alice wasn’t able to witness the birth and Janine, whose heart is so full of love and compassion that she trusts Alice with her baby. Janine then took it a step further and made sure that Alice felt like she was there. Having a baby is incredibly emotional but you add an additional layers of separation, I can only imagine how full these women’s hearts are and how incredibly brave they are. This part is what got me- that I could be a witness to not just one mom’s life change, but two!

Their efforts to connect – to overcome COVID obstacles – made me realize that we could take this even further with non-traditional parenting arrangements. Think about surrogate parents. There are instances where a surrogate couple cannot be at the hospital for the birth of their baby, and they would have to choose just one person to be at the hospital. Well, with what I just witnessed, we are bridging that gap. Then you consider military personnel who are deployed and away from their families during this time. Giving these service men and women the opportunity to witness the birth of their child no matter where in the world they may be deployed is a great way to honor their sacrifice and dedication.

I tell people all the time, I love what I do, and I believe I am helping make significant change in people’s lives. But I could have plastered the events of this ‘Go Live’ on a billboard. There are days that are long and tough, there are bumps in the road, but days like this give me jet fuel to keep going, keep me pursuing, keep me pushing the envelope. I am so proud of the SGMC team. I am so incredibly proud of my team- I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of them. I am so excited for all these families. I am most elated for where the future will take us because we have just pushed the trajectory of our course by another degree. So, the next time you need a pick-me-up with all that is happening around the world, I hope you read my words in black and white and know that there is good happening- it is all around us, we just need to find it. This time it just happened to be in Valdosta, Georgia.