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PURPOSE: This study aimed to examine variation in genetic testing between neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across hospitals over time.
METHODS: We performed a multicenter large-scale retrospective cohort study using NICU discharge data from the Pediatric Hospital Information System database between 2016 and 2021. We analyzed the variation in the percentage of NICU patients who had any genetic testing across hospitals and over time. We used a multivariable multilevel logistic regression model to investigate the potential association between patient characteristics and genetic testing.
RESULTS: The final analysis included 207,228 neonates from 38 hospitals. Overall, 13% of patients had at least 1 genetic test sent, although this varied from 4% to 50% across hospitals. Over the study period, the proportion of patients tested increased, with the increase disproportionately borne by hospitals already testing high proportions of patients. On average, patients who received genetic testing had higher illness severity. Controlling for severity, however, only minimally reduced the degree of hospital-level variation in genetic testing.
CONCLUSION: The percentage of NICU patients who undergo genetic testing varies among hospitals and increasingly so over time. Variation is largely unexplained by differences in severity between hospitals. The degree of variation suggests that clearer guidelines for NICU genetic testing are warranted.