Description and evaluation of a program for the early discharge of infants from a neonatal intensive care unit

J Pediatr. 1995 Aug;127(2):285-90. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(95)70312-8.


The effect of a cost-containment program focused on decreasing the lengths of hospital stay of high-risk neonates was assessed by comparison of discharge weights and lengths of stay for 257 study infants, discharged from a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after an early-discharge program began, with those of 477 control infants discharged during a prior 1-year period. Demographic data and costs, as well as data on emergency department use and hospital readmissions, were included in the comparisons. There was a significant decrease in mean discharge weight and length of stay for infants in the study group. During a 7-month period, an estimated 2073 days of hospital care and approximately $2,700,000 in hospital charges were saved, or $10,609 per infant discharged. The cost of instituting and maintaining the program was $120,413, or $468 per infant. Seven visits were made to the emergency department by the study infants during the first 14 days after discharge. One infant was readmitted for a 4-day hospital stay for suspected sepsis. Significantly earlier discharge of high-risk neonates produced a decrease in hospital charges without causing excessive morbidity. The success of the program was coincident and presumed related to the institution of multiple elements focused toward family support through early-discharge planning. The reduction in hospital charges was 30 times higher than program expenses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare / economics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cost Control
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / economics
  • Hospital Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / economics
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Length of Stay / economics*
  • Male
  • Ohio
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Patient Readmission
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Time Factors