This study examines the unique factors that influence loss to follow-up after newborn hearing screening for patients at a Massachusetts urban safety-net hospital. We seek to characterize our patient population, investigate correlations between patient factors and rates of follow-up, and understand gaps in care.
A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients born at an urban safety-net hospital from January 2015 through May 2018 who did not pass the newborn hearing screening in one or both ears. A total of 197 infants were included in our study. Outcomes of interest included rates and latency of follow-up appointments, infant demographics (sex, race, birth weight, risk factors for hearing loss), and maternal factors (age, marital status, smoking status, number of children).
From January 2015 through May 2018, 17% (n = 34) of infants were lost to follow-up. Of those who attended an initial audiology evaluation, the median time between screening and appointment was 29 days. Newborns were 3.5 times at risk of being lost to follow-up if their mothers smoked during pregnancy compared to those whose mothers did not smoke. Further, newborns with multiple siblings in the home were less likely to utilize any audiological services. High-risk infants, such as those with an extended stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, were found to have higher rates of loss to follow-up.
Our results indicate that patients at urban safety-net hospitals require increased support to decrease rates of loss to follow-up. In particular, strategies to aid mothers who smoke, have multiple children, or have high-risk infants can address gaps in care for newborns after hearing screening.