Postpartum home nurse visits improve infant health, reduce costs

HERSHEY, PA-Home nurse visits after childbirth reduce healthcare costs and greatly limit the number of emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations for infants, a Penn State Children's Hospital study suggests.

"The first 10 days after birth is a medically risky time for new babies. The most common reasons for infant hospital readmissions or trips to the ED in that time period are jaundice and dehydration, both of which are usually preventable," said Ian Paul, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, Penn State Children's Hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "Our study suggests that a low-cost home nurse visit can significantly reduce the need for comparatively expensive hospital and ED services for jaundice and dehydration and, most importantly, prevent babies from getting sick."

The study, "Cost-Effectiveness of Postnatal Home Nursing Visits for Prevention of Hospital Care for Jaundice and Dehydration" was published today (Oct. 4, 2004) in the journal Pediatrics.

The Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act of 1996 mandates insurance coverage of a minimum 48 hour hospital stay after childbirth. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also has stated that a newborn should be in the hospital at least 48 hours after birth and in most cases should be reassessed by a physician 48 hours to 72 hours after discharge. However, many babies are discharged before 48 hours and less than one half of all infants are taken to follow up appointments in the recommended timeframe.

"That initial post-discharge evaluation is critically important, yet compliance with the timing of the guidelines is poor," Paul said. "Our study focuses on the impact that one well-timed visit can have on health outcomes and suggests a great need for this alternative to outpatient physician visits in the immediate postnatal period so that infants are evaluated on the third or fourth day after delivery."

Investigators reviewed


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