10 November 2015

Critical Questions for Outsourcing a Newborn Hearing Screen Program

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hearing loss is one of the most frequently occurring birth defects. Considering this, states have taken action to ensure children are screened and treated early for hearing loss. Now, nearly all (97%) of newborns leaving hospitals receive hearing screenings.

Because the hearing screen process is relatively routine and simple to conduct, the primary challenge for hospital management is less about process optimization and more an issue of staffing and training. To solve the problem, more hospitals are turning to outsourced service providers that can manage the program with minimal financial commitment.

Entrusting a hearing screening program to a dedicated clinical services provider ensures that the program receives appropriate staffing and attention. It also frees up time and resources that hospital staff can dedicate to higher level responsibilities.

Use the checklist below when considering a partner to manage your newborn hearing program or to evaluate your current screening program. Here are some of the key program elements to review:

1. Who’s in charge?

Strong screening programs need a dedicated – and experienced – program coordinator to ensure a screening program is running efficiently and effectively. Do you have a coordinator that recruits and trains screeners themselves? Do they monitor the upkeep of your screening equipment? Are they data-driven and focused on successful test rates?

To be confident in your hearing screens, there needs to be a specialist in charge who can be trusted to professionally oversee their department. Outsourcing relieves the hospital from being responsible for purchasing and maintaining equipment, ordering supplies, and maintaining sufficient inventory.

2. Are you ensuring quality?

Quality control is in the details. There are certain questions that new parents will ask to feel confident in their hospital’s testing program: Do you employ best practices for screening and measure against key benchmarks of quality? This technology is highly specialized and is always advancing. State mandates/guidelines also may change. Outsourcing allows professionals experienced in this specialized field to make sure changes are implemented accordingly and address questions that hospital stakeholders will ask: does the program ensure coordination, oversight, accountability and sustainability? Do we have buy-in from nursery support staff and administrators?

3. Are parents satisfied with our care?

Patient experience and satisfaction are becoming increasingly important quality metrics for hospitals. Communication to new parents, in particular, must be clear and detailed. When evaluating a program, ask who communicates with families and caregivers. Communicating with pediatricians post-discharge with hearing screen results is an integral component of the newborn hearing screening program. In an outsourced program like Sheridan, hearing screeners communicate this important information to pediatricians. How is newborn hearing screening presented to families? Is information delivered accurately and confidentially?

4. Are our processes defined?

It’s important to understand how your hospital performs its hearing tests in various circumstances. For example, how are NICU and high-risk babies determined eligible or medically stable for screening? In those hospitals which use nurses to perform screens, outsourcing may prove to be more economical. In addition, relieving nursing staff of hearing screening, and the tracking and data entry that accompanies a newborn hearing screening program, allows nurses to be more present at the bedside. Not only will this improve nursing satisfaction, but may even have on impact on HCAP scores. What screening protocols are used for well-baby screening? What is the proposed timing?

5. Is our program compliant?

There are a number of regulations with which your program will need to demonstrate compliance. Does your hearing screening comply with your state’s EDHI program? Does your program employ well-qualified staff and facilitate appropriate well trained and retraining?

If you're interested in learning more about how Sheridan can help make your hospital's hearing screen program as successful as possible, we encourage you to visit our Healthy Hearing website or contact us directly.