Background: One area where the use of information and communication technology (ICT), or eHealth, could be developed is the home health care of premature infants. The aim of this randomized controlled study was to investigate whether the use of video conferencing or a web application improves parents' satisfaction in taking care of a premature infant at home and decreases the need of home visits. In addition, nurses' attitudes regarding the use of these tools were examined.
Method: Thirty-four families were randomized to one of three groups before their premature infant was discharged from the hospital to home health care: a control group receiving standard home health care (13 families); a web group receiving home health care supplemented with the use of a web application (12 families); a video group with home health care supplemented with video conferencing using Skype (9 families). Families and nursing staff answered questionnaires about the usefulness of ICT. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 families.
Results: All the parents in the web group found the web application easy to use. 83% of the families thought it was good to have access to their child's data through the application. All the families in the video group found Skype easy to use and were satisfied with the video calls. 88% of the families thought that video calls were better than ordinary phone calls. 33% of the families in the web group and 75% of those in the video group thought the need for home visits was decreased by the web application or Skype. 50% of the families in the web group and 100% of those in the video group thought the web application or the video calls had helped them feel more confident in caring for their child. Most of the nurses were motivated to use ICT but some were reluctant and avoided using the web application and video conferencing.
Conclusion: The families were satisfied with both the web application and video conferencing. The families readily embraced the use of ICT, whereas motivating some of the nurses to accept and use ICT was a major challenge.