Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) for neonatal encephalopathy is becoming widely available in clinical practice. The goal of this collaborative was to create and implement an evidence-based standard-of-care approach to neonatal encephalopathy, deliver consistent care, and optimize outcomes.
The quality improvement process identified and used the Model for Improvement as a framework for improvement efforts. This was a Vermont Oxford Network Collaborative focused on optimizing TH in the treatment of neonatal encephalopathy. By using an evidence-based approach, Potentially Better Practices were developed by the topic expert, modified by the collaborative, and implemented at each hospital. These included the following: timely identification of at-risk infants, coordination with referring hospitals to ensure TH was available within 6 hours after birth, staff education for both local and referring hospitals, nonsedated MRI, incorporating amplitude-integrated EEG into a TH protocol, and ensuring standard neurodevelopmental follow-up of infants. Each center used these practices to develop a matrix for implementation.
Local self-assessments directed the implementation and adaptation of the Potentially Better Practices at each center. Resources, based on common identified barriers, were developed and shared among the group.
The implementation of a TH program to improve the consistency of care for patients in NICUs is feasible using standard-quality improvement methodology. The successful introduction of new interventions such as TH to the NICU culture requires a collaborative multidisciplinary team, use of a systematic quality improvement process, and perseverance.