Parents of babies in intensive care at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston can check on their children using iPads, thanks to a $100,000 grant from Google.

The program was initially for chronically-ill kids being treated in MUSC's Children’s Hospital. They could check out the devices and use the Google Hangouts app to video chat with family and friends. It has now expanded to include the families of children in the NICU.

In a typical exchange, NICU babies' parents are able to see their children when a NICU nurse places an iPad on top of the child's incubator, while the parent also has a tablet. Via the Hangouts app, the parent can see the child as well as ask NICU staff any questions they may have.

The Google grant has enabled MUSC to buy 70 iPads, 30 protective cases and training for staff and volunteers to run the iPad program.

MUSC Assistant Nurse manager Joan Macpherson said the video chat capability will enhance the emotional support the NICU team provides to its families. “We are so appreciative of Google's donation,” she said. "It helps parents bond with their babies even when they can't be together all the time, and that's so important."

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