PURPOSE: Risk of adverse outcome in late-preterm infants (born between 34 and 36 weeks and 6 days' gestation) is heightened for those living in geographic isolation (GI). We examined the relationships between GI and several mother and infant outcomes.
SUBJECTS AND DESIGN: This was a tricenter cross-sectional study of 38 English-speaking late-preterm infant/mother dyads admitted to neonatal intensive care in a predominately rural Midwestern state. Eligibility for the study included English-speaking mothers and their biologically born late-preterm infants with no known anomalies.
METHODS AND MAIN OUTCOME: Outcomes included maternal knowledge of infant development (Knowledge of Infant Development Inventory) and competence (Competence in Preterm Infant Care questionnaire), maternal perception of vulnerability (Vulnerable Baby Scale ([VBS]), risk, and temperament (Pictorial Assessment of Temperament ([PAT]). Infant readmission and follow-up data were also examined. Potential covariates included any use of the Internet for healthcare information, demographic data, and mother and infant health history and were obtained from medical records and from the mother. Level of GI was determined by time and distance traveled (minutes) from the mother's primary residence to the closest regional healthcare center.
RESULTS: Study participants traveled 61 ± 58 miles and 72 ± 62 minutes on average. The Mean ± SD scores on assessment were as follows: Knowledge of Infant Development Inventory 77 ± 10, and Competence in Preterm Infant Care questionnaire 90 ± 14, VBS 27.5 ± 3.5, and PAT 17.5 ± 3. Bivariate associations were observed between distance and time and VBS scores (P = .03 for both). Multiple regression analysis showed significant relationship between time (P = .02) and PAT scores when maternal education (0.09) and the number of hours spent in the NICU (P = .01) were entered into the model. The association between time traveled and VBS scores became marginally significant when maternal age and Internet use were entered into the regression models. The odds for a mother to perceive her infant at risk for suboptimal outcomes were 6 times greater for each 1-hour additional travel time (odds ratio = 6.0; 95% confidence interval: 1.3-36; P = .001). There was no association between GI and readmission rate and follow-up care. Readmission rate was 8%, and anticipatory guidance was found to be inadequate.
CONCLUSION: Remote access to appropriate healthcare services elicits more than legitimate concerns for the late preterm infant and warrants further investigation with consideration for how services might be more easily accessed for this at-risk group.