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(SACRAMENTO) — A program that allows parents and families to see their babies via webcams in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC Davis Children’s Hospital received an award this month from the UC Office of the President (UCOP) for its innovative use of technology.

The UC Davis FamilyLink program, which expanded in October to all 49 beds in the NICU, received a Silver Award from the Larry L. Sautter Award for Innovation and Information Technology program on Aug. 11 at the UC Tech Virtual Webinar. The annual award, which is sponsored by the UC Information Technology Leadership Council, recognizes collaborative innovations in IT that advance the university’s missions of teaching, research, public service and patient care, or that improve the effectiveness of university processes.

UC Davis Health neonatologist Kristin Hoffman, who started the FamilyLink program in 2014, said the program allows authorized family members to virtually visit with their hospitalized baby 24/7 through a secure connection when they are not physically able to be at the bedside. It’s funded by a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals grant.

Kristin Hoffman started the FamilyLink program in 2014. In October, it expanded to all 49 beds in the NICU.

“We’re so pleased to receive recognition for a program that is vital for helping parents remain connected to their babies,” Hoffman said. “It’s stressful to have a baby in the NICU and so many of our families don’t live close by; this is one way we can increase bonding, provide emotional support and help families participate in their baby’s care.”

Since the expansion of the program in October, usage has increased from about 75 encounters a month to more than 320 encounters a month.

UC Davis Health Educational Technology and Application Development Director Dan Cotton said the expansion from 10 users to all 49 NICU beds had been in the works since 2018.

“We streamlined the enrollment process, simplified nursing login at the baby’s bedside, upgraded the user-friendly family interface and increased security,” Cotton said. “This project involved transitioning to a new video platform and creating a custom web portal with landing pages for administrators, nurses and families.”

UC Davis Health technical supervisor George Wu, who has worked on the project from the very beginning with Hoffman, said the increased use of the program after the expansion is wonderful and reflects all the hard work and collaboration that’s taken place across multiple departments.

“We couldn’t have done this without our partners at the Children’s Hospital, Center for Health and Technology, NICU, Patient Care Services, Information and Technology and Academic Information Systems,” Wu said.

About the award

The Larry L. Sautter Award for Innovation in Information Technology was established in 2000 to encourage and recognize innovative deployment of information technology in support of the university’s mission. The award is named after Larry L. Sautter, a UC Riverside associate vice chancellor for computing and communications who passed away in 1999. The award honors projects developed by faculty and staff in any department at the 10 UC campuses, six health systems, the UC Office of the President (UCOP), Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hastings College of the Law, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.