GAITHERSBURG, MD February 19, 2008 A recent survey of 202 neonatologists and pediatricians, which examined current attitudes and practices when caring for the specialized health needs of preterm infants, revealed that most respondents (70 percent) feel the United States healthcare system does not place enough emphasis on or dedicate enough resources to preventive healthcare for preemies. The survey was sponsored by MedImmune, Inc.
The incidence of preterm birth, when infants are born at less than 36 weeks gestation, has increased steadily in the United States since the mid-1990s. Because these babies lack the usual complement of antibodies, which are supplied by the mother to babies in late gestation, preterm babies are at high risk of getting a host of infectious diseases, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of infant respiratory hospitalization in the United States. That risk can be even greater among infants that have an array of complex health problems including immune deficiencies, chronic lung disease, congenital heart disease and neurological disorders.
This survey reminds us that, while progress in preemie healthcare has been made, more still needs to be done to ensure that every preemie, regardless of his or her circumstances, receives the care he or she deserves, said Richard J. Martin, M.D., division chief of neonatology, Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio.
Additional key survey findings shed light on reasons why premature infants may not receive the specialized care they require:
Preemie care practices differ among doctors with varying levels of experience.
Late-preterm infants (defined as 34-to-35 weeks gestational age for the purpose of the survey) may not be on their doctors radars because of misconceptions about the risks these babies face.
Doctors agree that there are a number of reimbursement and managed-care barriers to effective preemie care.
About the Survey
HCD Research, an independent research company, surveyed a random sample of 202 neonatologists and pediatricians from September 5 to 25, 2007. To qualify, respondents had to have spent at least 50 percent of their time in a clinical setting, with neonatologists treating at least three preemies per month and pediatricians treating at least three preemies in the past four months. Respondents with an existing financial relationship with an advertising agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or a market research firm were excluded. No incentive was offered in exchange for respondents participation.
Ninety-seven neonatologists participated in the survey. Thirty-two neonatologists had 10 years of experience or less, 37 neonatologists had between 11 and 20 years of experience, and 28 neonatologists had at least 21 years of experience. A total of 105 pediatricians participated in the survey. Twelve were pediatric pulmonologists and 15 were pediatric cardiologists. Thirty-two pediatricians had 10 years of experience or less, 45 pediatricians had between 11 and 20 years of experience, and 28 pediatricians had at least 21 years of experience.
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