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Understanding the Steps Toward Mobile Early Intervention for Mothers and Their Infants Exiting the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Descriptive Examination

  • Baggett, Kathleen M1
  • Davis, Betsy2
  • Landry, Susan H3
  • Feil, Edward G2
  • Whaley, Anna4
  • Schnitz, Alana4
  • Leve, Craig2
  • 1 Georgia State Universtiy, Atlanta, GA , (United States)
  • 2 Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR , (United States)
  • 3 University of Texas Health Sciences Center- Houston, Houston, TX , (United States)
  • 4 University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS , (United States)
Published Article
Journal of Medical Internet Research
JMIR Publications Inc.
Publication Date
Sep 22, 2020
DOI: 10.2196/18519
PMID: 32960178
PMCID: PMC7539159
PubMed Central
External links


Background Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) history, combined with systemic inequities for mothers of nondominant cultures and mothers who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, places infants at an extraordinary risk for poor developmental outcomes throughout life. Although receipt of early intervention (EI) is the best single predictor of developmental outcomes among children with and at risk for early developmental delays, mothers and infants with the greatest needs are least likely to receive EI. Mobile internet-based interventions afford substantial advantages for overcoming logistical challenges that often prevent mothers who are economically disadvantaged from accessing EI. However, the bridge from the NICU to a mobile internet intervention has been virtually unexplored. Objective This study aims to examine progression flow from NICU exit referral to an early mobile internet intervention to increase EI access and promote parent mediation of infant social-emotional and communication development. Methods Three NICUs serving the urban poor in a Midwestern city were provided support in establishing an electronic NICU exit referral mechanism into a randomized controlled trial of a mobile internet intervention for mothers and their infants. Measurement domains to reflect the bridge to service included each crucial gateway required for navigating the path into Part C EI, including referral, screening, assessment, and intervention access. An iterative process was used and documented to facilitate each NICU in establishing an individualized accountability plan for sharing referral materials with mothers before their NICU exit. Subsequent to the referral, progression flow was documented on the basis of a real-time electronic recording of service receipt and contact records. Mother and infant risk characteristics were also assessed. Descriptive analyses were conducted to summarize and characterize each measurement domain. Results NICU referral rates for EI were 3 to 4 times higher for open-shared versus closed-single gatekeeper referral processes. Of 86 referred dyads, 67 (78%) were screened, and of those screened, 51 (76%) were eligible for assessment. Of the 51 assessment-eligible mothers and infants, 35 dyads (69%) completed the assessment and 31 (89%) went on to complete at least one remote coaching intervention session. The dyads who accessed and engaged in intervention were racially and ethnically diverse and experiencing substantial adversity. Conclusions The transition from the NICU to home was fraught with missed opportunities for an EI referral. Beyond the referral, the most prominent reason for not participating in screening was that mothers could not be located after exiting the NICU. Stronger NICU referral mechanisms for EI are needed. It may be essential to initiate mobile interventions before exiting the NICU for maintaining post-NICU contact with some mothers. In contrast to a closed, single point of referral gatekeeper systems in NICUs, open, shared referral gating systems may be less stymied by individual service provider biases and disruptions.

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