Article Abstract

Economic assessment of neonatal intensive care

Authors: Irene Guat Sim Cheah

Abstract

Most of the studies on the costing of neonatal intensive care has concentrated on the costs associated with preterm infants which takes up more than half of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) costs. The focus has been on determining the cost-effectiveness of extreme preterm infants and those at threshold of viability. While the costs of care have an inverse relationship with gestational age (GA) and the lifetime medical costs of the extreme preterm can be as high as $450,000, the total NICU expenditure are skewed towards the care of moderate and late preterm infants who form the main bulk of patients. Neonatal intensive care, has been found to be very cost-effective at $1,000 per term infant per QALY and $9,100 for extreme preterm survivor per QALY. For low and LMIC, where NICU resources are limited, the costs of NICU care is lower largely due to a patient profile of more term and preterm of greater GAs and correspondingly less intensity of care. Public health measures, neonatal resuscitation training, empowerment of nurses to do resuscitation, increasing the accessibility to essential newborn care are recommended cheaper cost-effective measures to reduce neonatal mortality in countries with high neonatal mortality rate, whilst upgraded neonatal intensive care services are needed to further reduce neonatal mortality rate once below 15 per 1,000 livebirths. Economic evaluation of neonatal intensive care should also include post discharge costs which mainly fall on the health, social and educational sectors. Strategies to reduce neonatal intensive care costs could include more widespread implementation of cost-effective methods of improving neonatal outcome and reducing neonatal morbidities, including access to antenatal care, perinatal interventions to delay preterm delivery wherever feasible, improving maternal health status and practising cost saving and effective neonatal intensive care treatment.