A patient views and talks to his family on iCareChat.
A new interactive Web-based video system allows patients at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, Gilbert, Ariz., to see family and friends live as they chat.

Proud new moms in the Family Birth Center at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, Gilbert, Ariz., can show off their babies and converse with family and friends who are not able to visit the hospital. Likewise, patients in the medical center's palliative care program also can communicate live with loved ones outside the hospital.

The new system, called iCareChat, allows patients to communicate with family members and certain members of the clinical staff through the use of strategically located web cameras attached to televisions in patient rooms. From their beds, patients can use a simple controller to connect with others anywhere around the world in seconds.

The iCareChat system also was installed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. This allows mothers to see their babies when they can't be with them because of infection control guidelines.

To link with the patient, family members or friends only need a PC or laptop and a web camera, if one is not already built into the computer, says David Scho­field, president and CEO, Skylight Healthcare Systems, San Diego, developer of iCareChat. The phone in the patient room is used to provide audio for the video chat session. Friends and family use their computer or web cam microphone.

The iCareChat system is an add-on to the company's Skylight ACCESS Interactive Patient Care System, which utilizes a fiber optic network and individual PCs installed by Skylight in participating hospitals.