Objective: The aim of this study was to describe selected trends in hospital inpatient care for children between 2000 and 2007. Study Design: Analysis was conducted of administrative data from annual nationwide databases of hospital discharges from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, along with survey data from a nationally representative random sample of children from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Hospital utilization rates and expenses, risk-adjusted rates of potentially avoidable hospitalization, and safety indicators in the hospital are calculated and tracked with established and downloadable software. Results: The rate of hospital discharges for children aged 15 to 17 years declined significantly, mainly due to fewer maternity-related discharges. The leading principal conditions by age group were similar to the report for 1995 to 2000; however, the rate of admissions for skin infections doubled to 9 per 10 000. Hospital cost per discharge increased by an annual average of 4.5% per year compared with 2.6% annual growth in the gross domestic product deflator. Medicaid is increasingly important relative to private insurance as a payer for hospital care for children. The rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations for both acute and chronic conditions declined substantially (18%, adjusted for age and gender). Several measures of patient safety improved - the rates of postoperative sepsis, iatrogenic pneumothorax, and selected infections due to medical care declined by 14.2%, 17.8%, and 23.5%, respectively. However, the rate of accidental punctures and lacerations and the rate of decubitus ulcer increased by 25.6% and 34.5%, respectively. The trends in safety indicators varied somewhat by age group, income quartile of zip codes, insurance, region, and type of location without a consistent pattern. Conclusions/Implications: Although teenage pregnancy rates were declining, there was a worsening trend in skin infections. The latter may eventually be impacted by recent publication of new guidelines for treatment by office-based physicians. A gradually increasing role of Medicaid as a payer for hospital care for children will likely put an increasing strain on public resources in advance of the full implementation of the health insurance reforms recently enacted. The decline in potentially avoidable admissions reduces the use of the most expensive resources. For asthma and diabetes, children in the lowest income zip codes had persistently higher rates of admission, but the rate fell by one third during the period. Children in the South and West regions had substantial and significant declines in preventable admissions. Particular indicators of safety were improving, whereas others were worsening. Trends were not the same in all types of hospitals, all regions, and income categories. This is already a rich area for further research on the impact of quality improvement strategies; however, attention is needed to developing more tools to more thoroughly track quality of care for children.
- patient safety
- potentially avoidable admissions
- trends in hospital utilization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health