Dr. Michael Narvey MD, FAAP, FRCPC is a graduate of the University of Manitoba (Medicine & Pediatrics) who completed further training in Neonatology at the University of Manitoba. He practices as a Neonatologist at the University of Manitoba and has a leadership position as the Section Head of Neonatology within the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health. His interests are in Education and in minimizing pain in the newborn through the use of non-invasive testing.
During my residency in Pediatrics I recall making hospital rounds at night very well. What I also remember from that period in my life, is noting the separation that many of the children on our service experienced. In many cases this was not a matter of neglect but rather reality, in which one or both parents were needed at home to take care of other children or simply had to continue working in order to make ends meet. Many hospitals are blessed with Child Life programs whose purpose among other things is to reduce boredom and loneliness while children are isolated in the hospital.
The truth though is that nothing can compare to the touch, voice or seeing one’s parent to help with the periods of separation. I often dreamed that one day there would be a solution to this and the reason for this post is that I believe that time is now.
About 18 months ago I learned of a brilliant piece of software that could indirectly address the missing touch of a parent and enable both visual and voice contact with the parent of a child. Kindoma Storytime is an app for mobile devices that allows audio and video connections between one or both parents and the child. The software allows the child and person(s) at the other end to read a story together while seeing each other’s face on the mobile device as well. Touch is addressed partly in that as a parent touches the screen to show a child something on the page of interest, the child on their end will see an outline of their parent’s finger moving on their screen. I know what you may be thinking however. We have Facetime, Skype and other options to do video calling so why do we need another? The difference is in the engagement that you get with the Kindoma application. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a 3 or 4 year old on a video link? You are lucky if you get 15 seconds before they either hang up or are distracted and leave the screen. Therein lies the key difference. By engaging the child in an activity you are far more likely to keep them connected with you and more than that you share an experience that you would normally enjoy together. It could help bring some normalcy to a very abnormal situation in the case of a hospitalized child!
As a mother recently posted in her Kindoma review, the reverse is also true in that a hospitalized parent can have the opportunity to interact with their children. So much of recovery from illness has to do with your mental state and how beneficial would it be to still take part in your child’s nightly bedtime story.
“This app was such a blessing to our family when I was hospitalized quite a ways from our home and kids. I was still able to read them stories at night remotely with video chat above the book pages. Thank you for creating this app!”
We live in a connected world. In fact, we now know that children as young as 6 months are capable of playing on a tablet device (as was recently presented at a North American Pediatrics Conference http://bit.ly/1IaHADh). I believe we are witnessing the dawn of a novel means of interacting and communicating with our children when we simply can’t be with them. According to the Kindoma website they will soon have shared drawing with video talk connection as well.
I have no doubt that we will be hearing more about Kindoma as the company continues to expand. This short post was just an attempt to plant the seed in parents and other health care providers minds that we can and should do a better job of connecting our hospitalized children with their families. I happen to think Kindoma can and should play a role in this and would invite you to share this with your local hospital to see if Kindoma is something that could help them improve the patient experience. I know I have!