OBJECTIVE: To describe parental use of an Internet-based educational and emotional support system, in a regional NICU program.
METHODS: Baby CareLink was installed in NICUs in 4 Denver area hospitals in 2003. Parents were offered access from hospital terminals and from any other Internet access point. Data on use of the program was collected by the computer system. Discharge status was verified by Colorado's Department of Public Assistance.
RESULTS: Of the 388 families admitted to Denver area NICUs with Baby CareLink during the study period, 135 (34.8%) were identified as Medicaid families (needing public assistance). After exclusions, data for 81 Medicaid and 154 non-Medicaid families were available for analysis. Medicaid families who accessed 3 or more Baby CareLink web pages per day took their infants home 17.5 days sooner than families who used Baby CareLink less often (p=0.03). Among the non-Medicaid families, more frequent users of Baby CareLink took their infants home 14.3 days sooner (p=0.04).
CONCLUSIONS: Internet portals will be used by both Medicaid and non-Medicaid parents with children in NICUs to meet educational needs. More frequent use of Baby CareLink was associated with significantly shorter length of stay. Self-help tools for parents may free nursing resource for families with greater needs.