Between contractions, the race to the hospital, delivery, recovery and bringing home baby, few parents have time to truly understand each medical charge and every mandatory procedure.
According to a March 1st report by Oklahoma City’s KFOR, many new parents delivering in large metro hospitals are beginning to question a Newborn Hearing Screening charge ranging up to $230. The screening is mandatory by the Oklahoma State Legislature and many insurance companies do not cover 100 percent of the test’s costs.
Parents delivering newborns at Stillwater Medical Center may be pleased to learn that the mandatory Newborn Hearing Screenings are offered free of charge to patients – thanks to Stillwater Medical Center volunteers who are dedicated to truly making a difference in quality patient care.
“In other hospitals, the screening is done overnight and the parents often times aren't aware it’s been done,” said Sarah Westerhide, chairperson of Stillwater Medical Center’s volunteer newborn hearing screening service. “We do our screening 9:30 to 11:30 am and always speak with the parents face to face. If there is an issue, we can explain the situation.”
Westerhide says the only patient fee is the $10 cost of the screening supplies, which may be covered by some insurance providers.
Stillwater Medical Center delivers approximately one thousand babies annually, and each baby is screened for hearing loss. Using an auditory brainstem response (ABR) system, three electrodes are attached to the baby at the nape of the neck, shoulder and forehead. Ear "cuffs" are then attached to each ear. The computer program emits different decibels of sound and measures the response on a "pass/fail" system.
“Volunteers began a Newborn Hearing Screening program at SMC approximately 40 years ago, well before it was a mandated state test,” Westerhide said. “We have come such a long way, through several incarnations of hearing screening equipment. When we went to the ABR system almost two years ago, all the volunteers had an extensive three-hour training session with the manufacturers of the equipment.”
Westerhide has been performing the hearing screenings for 10 years and says several volunteers have more than 15 years of experience.
“Of the 12 volunteers who do the screenings, all but two have been doing screenings for at least three years,” Westerhide said. “The two most recent volunteers were trained by those of us who attended to original ABR training session.”
“Our volunteers do so much more for patients than most people may realize,” said Shyla Eggers, director of public relations at Stillwater Medical Center. “They are fully utilized and trained to help with patient care when appropriate, which helps reduce some costs to patients while providing more efficient, quality service. We are very grateful for all they do to make our hospital function at the highest level.”
According to KFOR, the majority of the large bills encountered by Oklahoma City metro hospital patients are coming from Pediatrix, a medical outsourcing company who performs the Newborn Hearing Screenings for the metro hospitals.
“Pediatrix was very diligent about calling us at the end of the year, trying to get us to change to their service,” said Elaine Fox from Stillwater Medical Center. “I was very grateful that we have the volunteers who want to provide this service free to our patients, so that all of our babies get screened.”
For more information about Newborn Hearing Screenings at Stillwater Medical Center, please contact the Maternal Child Health Unit at 405-742-5553.
Only hours after birth, a Stillwater Medical Center newborn undergoes hearing screening completed by volunteers at no charge to parents. The early screening helps ensure early detection of any problems resulting in earlier treatment. Volunteers administer the state mandated screenings at SMC, keeping them free of charge for patients while helping ensure early detection of abnormalities.