Examining early intervention referral patterns in neonatal intensive care unit follow up clinics using telemedicine during COVID-19

Kerry Miller, Grace Berentson, Holly Roberts, Carol McMorris, Howard Needelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) follow up programs are in place to ensure infant health and development are monitored after discharge. The COVID-19 Public Health Epidemic (PHE) negatively impacted the ability to conduct in-person NICU follow up visits. Aims: This study examines using telemedicine in NICU follow up clinics and compares the rates of referral for further medical and/or educational developmental evaluation. A second objective of the study examines if telemedicine can be implemented in the future to ensure access to families while maintaining high levels of caregiver satisfaction. Method: Data were obtained retrospectively from clinical records from one state's NICU follow-up program. Patterns of referral for further developmental evaluation and caregiver satisfaction prior to the COVID-19 PHE and during the first year of the COVID-19 PHE were examined. A total of 658 NICU follow up visits (384 in-person and 274 telemedicine) were included. Results: Chi Square analyses revealed significantly more medically related referrals were made during telemedicine visits compared to in-person visits, χ2 (1) = 5.55, p.05. There were no significant differences between the clinic types in the number of educationally based referrals made, χ2 (1) = 0.028, p >.05. Conclusion: The rates of referral for further evaluation made from in-person and telemedicine clinics were comparable, and caregivers were highly satisfied with telemedicine clinic visits. NICU follow up via a virtual platform saves time, money and is equally effective or better in identifying the need for referral for further evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105631
JournalEarly Human Development
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Follow-up clinic
  • NICU
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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