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Digital Health Tech Helps Carilion Children's Monitor NICU Feeding Processes

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   July 21, 2023

The Virginia hospital will use an analytics platform integrated with its EHR to track patient feeding metrics, identify pain points, and offer best practices to improve staff workflows and clinical outcomes.

A children's hospital in Virginia is integrating digital health technology into its neonatal intensive care unit to improve care management for preterm babies and infants with acute medical conditions.

The partnership between Roanoke-based Carilion Children's Hospital and Astarte Medical will enable NICU staff to access the latter's NICUtrition platform, which analyzes patient feeding practices and outcomes to identify feeding protocol effectiveness, patient risk factors, and best practices that can positively impact patient outcomes.

[See also: How Intermountain Saved $1.2M With Neonatal Telehealth Program.]

The technology, which will be integrated with the hospital Epic electronic health record platform, is critical to a 60-bed hospital that typically operates at or close to capacity.

NICUtrition "is able to reflect both longitudinal and real-time patient feeding and growth metrics that help our care teams make evidence-based decisions," Dena Goldberg, PhD, RDN, a clinical dietitian and neonatal specialist at Carilion Children's Hospital, said in an e-mail to HealthLeaders. "Because the platform streamlines data-gathering, we no longer have to collect nutrition and growth outcome data by hand and then use statistical software to analyze it. It's not replacing any jobs but augmenting our teams and reducing the burden placed on resources."

The fast-paced, stressful environment of an NICU often puts high demands on staff who are monitoring frail babies and tracking key vital signs and metrics every hour, if not more often. Digital health tools that can accessed through the EHR can help with that data gathering and analysis, offering crucial clinical decision support when and where needed.

[See also: Researchers Aim to Improve Pediatric Care With Smart Pacifier.]

Goldberg said the technology will be evaluated over the next 3-6 months to see how it affects daily workflows as well as clinical outcomes. That research may be used to help expand the platform to other areas of pediatric care, including cardiac care and cerebral palsy.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation at HealthLeaders.


Carilion Children's Hospital often operates at or near capacity in its 60-bed NICU, where staff monitor preterm infants and babies around the clock.

New technology integrated with the hospital's Epic EHR will track patient feeding practices, collecting data that can be used to fine-tune the process, identify pain points, and help staff improve their workflows and patient outcomes.

The platform will be evaluated over the next 3-6 months and, if found effective, could be expanded to other pediatric treatments, such as cardiac care and cerebral palsy.

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