AIM: To estimate healthcare use and related costs for 2-year-old very preterm (VP) children after discharge from the neonatal unit.
METHODS: As part of a European project, we recruited an area-based cohort including all VP infants born in three Italian regions (Lazio, Emilia-Romagna and Marche) in 2011-2012. At 2 years corrected age, parents completed a questionnaire on their child health and healthcare use (N = 732, response rate 75.6%). Cost values were assigned based on national reimbursement tariffs. We used multivariable analyses to identify factors associated with any rehospitalisation and overall healthcare costs.
RESULTS: The most frequently consulted physicians were the paediatrician (85% of children), the ophthalmologist (36%) and the neurologist/neuropsychiatrist (26%); 38% of children were hospitalised at least once after the initial discharge, for a total of 513 admissions and over one million euros cost, corresponding to 75% of total healthcare costs. Low maternal education and parental occupation index, congenital anomalies and postnatal prematurity-related morbidities significantly increased the risk of rehospitalisation and total healthcare costs.
CONCLUSION: Rehospitalisation and outpatient care are frequent in VP children, confirming a substantial health and economic burden. These findings should inform the allocation of resources to preventive and rehabilitation services for these children.