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‘There were more wires than him’: the potential for wireless patient monitoring in neonatal intensive care
  1. Oliver Bonner1,
  2. Kathryn Beardsall2,
  3. Nathan Crilly1,
  4. Joan Lasenby1
  1. 1Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Oliver Bonner, Signal Processing Group, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ, UK; ob298{at}


Background The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be one of the most stressful hospital environments. Alongside providing intensive clinical care, it is important that parents have the opportunity for regular physical contact with their babies because the neonatal period is critical for parent–child bonding. At present, monitoring technology in the NICU requires multiple wired sensors to track each baby's vital signs. This study describes the experiences that parents and nurses have with the current monitoring methods, and reports on their responses to the concept of a wireless monitoring system.

Methods Semistructured interviews were conducted with six parents, each of whom had babies on the unit, and seven nurses who cared for those babies. The interviews initially focused on the participants’ experiences of the current wired system and then on their responses to the concept of a wireless system. The transcripts were analysed using a general inductive approach to identify relevant themes.

Results Participants reported on physical and psychological barriers to parental care, the ways in which the current system obstructed the efficient delivery of clinical care and the perceived benefits and risks of a wireless system. The parents and nurses identified that the wires impeded baby–parent bonding; physically and psychologically. While a wireless system was viewed as potentially enabling greater interaction, staff and parents highlighted potential concerns, including the size, weight and battery life of any new device.

Conclusions The many wires required to safely monitor babies within the NICU creates a negative environment for parents at a critical developmental period, in terms of physical and psychological interactions. Nurses also experience challenges with the existing system, which could negatively impact the clinical care delivery. Developing a wireless system could overcome these barriers, but there remain challenges in designing a device suitable for this unique environment.

  • neonatal intensive care
  • patient monitoring
  • wireless sensors
  • kangaroo care

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Page 1, paragraph 2, the sentence ‘Various technologies assists the clinical teams...’ has been revised to read ‘Various technologies assist the clinical teams...’. Also, figure 2 caption has been revised to read ‘A pulse oximeter...’.

  • Contributors OB devised and carried out the interview study with the help of KB and JL. Data was processed by OB, with guidance from NC. All authors gave final approval for publication.

  • Funding This project was funded by the EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies and Applications (grant number EP/L015889/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study received ethical approval from the University of Cambridge Engineering Department's Research Ethics Committee. The study was further registered with Addenbrooke's Hospital Patient Experience Department. All participants consented to being quoted anonymously in publication.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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