Objectives: To describe parent-reported healthcare service use at age 5 years in children born very preterm and investigate whether perinatal and social factors and the use of very preterm follow-up services are associated with high service use. Study design: We used data from an area-based cohort of births at <32 weeks of gestation from 11 European countries, collected from birth records and parental questionnaires at 5 years of age. Using the published literature, we defined high use of outpatient/inpatient care (≥4 sick visits to general practitioners, pediatricians, or nurses, ≥3 emergency room visits, or ≥1 overnight hospitalization) and specialist care (≥2 different specialists or ≥3 visits). We also categorized countries as having either a high or a low rate of children using very preterm follow-up services at age 5 years. Results: Overall, 43% of children had high outpatient/inpatient care use and 48% had high specialist care use during the previous year. Perinatal factors were associated with high outpatient/inpatient and specialist care use, with a more significant association with specialist services. Associations with intermediate parental educational level and unemployment were stronger for outpatient/inpatient services. Living in a country with higher rates of very preterm follow-up service use was associated with lower use of outpatient/inpatient services. Conclusions: Children born very preterm had high healthcare service use at age 5 years, with different patterns for outpatient/inpatient and specialist care by perinatal and social factors. Longer follow-up of children born very preterm may improve care coordination and help avoid undesirable health service use.
Journal of Pediatrics