Winner Regional Starts Pediatric Teleaudiology Pilot Program

Winner Regional Healthcare Center has been chosen as one of two sites for a pilot program to conduct pediatric teleaudiology diagnostic testing. A HRSA (Health Resources & Service Administration) grant delivered to the South Dakota Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Collaborative (EHDI), a partnership of the South Dakota Department of Health, the University of South Dakota’s (USD) nursing department and the department of communication sciences & disorders, and the South Dakota School for the Deaf, is being utilized to conduct this pilot program.

Initial screening to identify hearing loss is routinely conducted before babies leave the hospital, after being born. If a baby does not pass this screening, an in-depth diagnostic evaluation should occur before the baby is three months of age, allowing for an intervention, if necessary, to be in place by six months of age. Early intervention is desired to prevent further impact of the hearing deficits. This is referred to as the 1-3-6 guideline.

As this is a teleaudiology program, patients utilizing this new technology at Winner Regional Healthcare Center are connected via a video conference camera with Dr. Jessica Messersmith of USD. Winner Regional nurses assist in conducting testing, utilizing equipment which Dr. Messersmith is able to control and monitor in real-time on her computer. The first test is a direct visualization of the ear canal and the second is auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing, which tests the brain’s response to different sounds. The appointment takes about two hours, as it takes a while to get the infant to sleep, which is necessary for testing. Amazingly, Dr. Messersmith and parents are able to identify the degree of an infant’s hearing immediately.

It is the hope of Winner Regional Healthcare Center, USD and other EHDI partners that this pilot program will become long-term and permanent. In the meantime, it is an especially valuable and exciting program to offer new parents in the region. Referrals for the pediatric teleaudiology diagnostic testing can be made through a primary provider.

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