Data-Driven Engagement of Families to Improve the NICU Experience (DEFINE)

DEFINE engages families and supports parental wellbeing and participation in their baby’s NICU care via implementation of system improvement processes and robust data collection and analysis. Recent studies demonstrate that optimizing family engagement in the NICU leads to positive outcomes for both infants and their parents, including higher breastfeeding rates, shorter length of hospital stay, improved neurodevelopmental outcomes, and lower stress and anxiety scores for parents. 

Given these positive outcomes, the DEFINE program provides a targeted approach to understanding and improving policies and programs in NICUs throughout Colorado to increase parental engagement. Participating hospitals are asked to develop a multidisciplinary team, collect and submit data, review existing practices and policies related to parental NICU involvement, and use structured quality improvement methods to improve specialized care. 

To further develop a community of practice, DEFINE participants are also asked to participate in an annual forum that brings together providers, parents, community-based groups, and public health agencies to share progress and ideas, continue learning, and review performance metrics. 

Community Impact

  • Since the start  of this program in fall 2021, participating hospitals have seen quality improvements in communication with parents in the NICU. Parents went from receiving updates on their baby’s care an average of 4 days in the first week of their baby’s admission to every day in the first week of their baby’s admission.
  • An average of 94.2% of families have contact with social workers within the first week of NICU hospitalization since the conception of the program in quarter 3 2021. Additionally, when the program started, the average first day of social work contact was on day 3.2. In quarter 1 of 2023, the average day of first social work contact is day 2. This is a 37.5% decrease.

Program Partners

Led in partnership with University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Neonatology

University of Colorado Department of Pediatrics School of Medicine Neonatology Logo

Learn More About Participating in DEFINE

Any hospital with a NICU in Colorado is eligible to join DEFINE.



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DEFINE Fall Forum

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