- Department of Public Health
Media Contact for State Public Health Officials Award Grant to Pilot Telehealth Audiology Program
Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has announced a grant to pilot a telehealth newborn diagnostic audiology service. Boston Children’s Hospital and Cape Cod Hospital will operate the pilot through their Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program for follow-up care. The federal CARES Act provided funding through the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs. DPH was one of 21 federal awardees to support maternal and child telehealth focused programs.
“Telehealth removed many barriers to accessing healthcare, including geography. This innovative program will allow families to receive care in their community and ensure that babies receive the timely hearing testing they need,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Babies who are identified as deaf and hard of hearing early do better, and families on Cape Cod and the Islands will benefit from easier access to these critical services.”
“The timing of this project was ideal. We learned a lot about remote healthcare as our clinics responded to the Covid emergency,” said Derek Stiles, PhD, Director of the Audiology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We were able to apply that knowledge to setting up the remote hearing testing with Cape Cod Hospital, which will benefit families on the Cape and Islands beyond the lifting of quarantine.”
DPH is working with Boston Children’s to bring their audiological expertise to families living on Cape Cod and the Islands. The pilot will utilize a “hub and spoke” model where audiologists at Boston Children’s will assess newborns at Cape Cod Hospital via telehealth. A team member from Cape Cod Hospital’s The Family Birthplace will prepare the infant for the test while the audiologist at Boston Children’s will perform the testing remotely, explain the test results and provide counseling to the family.
Cape Cod and the Islands fall into an underserved region for pediatric diagnostic audiology services, as babies born in the Southeast region of Massachusetts have been more than twice as likely as those in the rest of the state not to receive documented follow-up diagnostic testing after a failed newborn hearing screen. Typically, testing occurs at a DPH approved audiological diagnostic center. The closest approved centers to Cape Cod require travel to Fall River, Taunton, or Boston.