HumanInsight Impact of COVID-19 on Infants Followed After Discharge from the NICU Using a Telemedicine Model
Am J Perinatol. 2022 Nov 30. doi: 10.1055/a-1990-8571. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on infant healthcare and health outcomes. In this study, we aimed to characterize the social impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown on families in a neonatal follow-up program (NFP). Given the ongoing increased use of telehealth across the medicine, we also evaluated for patient-level differences in virtual visit rates to identify patients at risk of follow-up challenges.
METHODS: In order to assess the impact of virtual healthcare utilization, we conducted a retrospective cohort study to describe challenges associated with telemedicine use in this vulnerable patient population during our telemedicine epoch (March 13, 2020-July 31, 2020). We also looked for patient-level factors associated with attending NFP visits as scheduled. Finally, we summarized caregiver responses to a COVID-19 Obstacles Assessment Survey and assessed for racial disparities in these responses.
RESULTS: When comparing patients who completed their virtual visit to those who did not, we found no differences by infants' sex, birthweight, gestational age at birth or caregiver self-reported race and ethnicity. However, infants whose visits did not occur were more often discharged with equipment or covered by public insurance. Nine percent of families endorsed food insecurity.
CONCLUSION: During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, families with infants discharged from a NICU faced significant obstacles caring for their infants and attending scheduled follow-up visits. Infants in families with lower socioeconomic status or with increased medical complexity faced increased challenges in attending virtual follow-up visits during this epoch. Given the ongoing reliance on telemedicine in healthcare and the need to better prepare for future epidemics/pandemics, this study offers critical information that can assist neonatal teams in bolstering transitions to home and creating stronger safety nets for their patients after discharge.
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