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Children with CHD are at risk for neurodevelopmental delays, and length of hospitalisation is a predictor of poorer long-term outcomes. Multiple aspects of hospitalisation impact neurodevelopment, including sleep interruptions, limited holding, and reduced developmental stimulation. We aimed to address modifiable factors by creating and implementing an interdisciplinary inpatient neurodevelopmental care programme in our Heart Institute.
In this quality improvement study, we developed an empirically supported approach to neurodevelopmental care across the continuum of hospitalisation for patients with CHD using three plan-do-study-act cycles. With input from multi-level stakeholders including parents/caregivers, we co-designed interventions that comprised the Cardiac Inpatient Neurodevelopmental Care Optimization (CINCO) programme. These included medical/nursing orders for developmental care practices, developmental kits for patients, bedside developmental plans, caregiver education and support, developmental care rounds, and a specialised volunteer programme. We obtained data from the electronic health record for patients aged 0–2 years admitted for at least 7 days to track implementation.
There were 619 admissions in 18 months. Utilisation of CINCO interventions increased over time, particularly for the medical/nursing orders and caregiver handouts. The volunteer programme launch was delayed but grew rapidly and within six months, provided over 500 hours of developmental interaction with patients.
We created and implemented a low-cost programme that systematised and expanded upon existing neurodevelopmental care practices in the cardiac inpatient units. Feasibility was demonstrated through increasing implementation rates over time. Key takeaways include the importance of multi-level stakeholder buy-in and embedding processes in existing clinical workflows.
Infants and children born with CHD are at significant risk for neurodevelopmental delays and abnormalities. Individualised developmental care is widely recognised as best practice to support early neurodevelopment for medically fragile infants born premature or requiring surgical intervention after birth. However, wide variability in clinical practice is consistently demonstrated in units caring for infants with CHD. The Cardiac Newborn Neuroprotective Network, a Special Interest Group of the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative, formed a working group of experts to create an evidence-based developmental care pathway to guide clinical practice in hospital settings caring for infants with CHD. The clinical pathway, “Developmental Care Pathway for Hospitalized Infants with Congenital Heart Disease,” includes recommendations for standardised developmental assessment, parent mental health screening, and the implementation of a daily developmental care bundle, which incorporates individualised assessments and interventions tailored to meet the needs of this unique infant population and their families. Hospitals caring for infants with CHD are encouraged to adopt this developmental care pathway and track metrics and outcomes using a quality improvement framework.
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