From On Time to First Time

Riding High on Recent Successes, Focus on Newborn Screenings Turns to Proper Sample Collection

The “On Time/Every Time” initiative, a partnership between the South Carolina Hospital Association, SC Department of Health & Environmental Control, and South Carolina’s birthing hospitals, has been a great success since its launch in February 2014, rocketing the percentage of newborn screening specimens that are postmarked within 24 hours of collection from 55% to an average of 90% over the course of a year. That profound statewide shift has reduced the danger from serious and deadly, but treatable, genetic disorders for babies and their parents.


The goal, however, is a 100% timely submission and detection rate so a new initiative – “First Time, Every Time” – has been launched to address the samples that arrive at DHEC’s labs that are “unsatisfactory” or untestable. Such specimens account for about 4% of all samples collected. The short-term national goal is to get that number under 2%.


The reason unsatisfactory samples are submitted is because collecting them is deceptively tricky. Blood is drawn from the lateral heel of a squirming baby, then placed on filtered paper cards to fill five separate circular spots. It’s important for the blood to cover the vast majority of the circle, and to not scrape or otherwise impact the sample. Because of the fibrous nature of the paper, these cards also cannot be stacked on top of each other but instead must be stored upright or on their sides.  


In order to reduce the percentage of unusable specimens, “First Time, Every Time” is holding Newborn Screening training sessions around the state to instruct neonatal nurses on the proper procedure and ensure viable samples are submitted to the lab within the 24-hour collection period. Upcoming sessions are scheduled at Coastal Carolina Hospital (6/24), McLeod Regional Medical Center (7/22), Palmetto Health (8/12 and 9/23) and Greenville Health System (9/9). By continuing to hone procedures and minimize risk, we can achieve 100% timely newborn screenings in South Carolina.


All “First Time, Every Time” sessions are free to attend. For additional information or questions, email Dana Smith.