Sick Longer = Kids in Hospital Longer

Children with chronic health problems use hospital resources most often

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Health problems that stick around the longest can keep patients at the hospitals longest, at least for the kids.

A recently published report found that children with long-term health problems used hospital resources more often than those without a chronic condition.

This shows who exactly needs the resources and which resources need the most attention and focus.

"Follow doctors' orders to avoid future hospital trips."

Researchers, led by Jay Berry, MD, from the General Pediatrics Department at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at how often child patients used the resources at the hospitals where they stayed.

The study included 28 children's hospitals across the US with more than 1.5 million different patients hospitalized between January 2004 and December 2009.

The patients were divided into one of five groups based on what long-term health problem they had. Researchers kept track of the time patients spent at the hospital, how many times they were hospitalized and the hospital charges.

They found that 19 percent of children with a long-term, or chronic, condition were hospitalized compared to less than 14 percent of children without a chronic problem.

Asthma and cerebral palsy were the most common diagnoses among the children at about 22 percent and 15 percent respectively. Kids with chronic health conditions affecting two or more systems in their body accounted for almost a third of the hospitalizations.

This same group made up 19 percent of all hospitalized patients and 27 percent of the discharges. Collectively, they stayed 1.1 million days in the hospital and over half of the hospital bill, adding up to $9.2 billion in fees.

About 57 percent of these kids used Medicaid compared to less than 50 percent of kids without a chronic condition.

"Children's hospitals must ensure that their inpatient care systems and payment structures are equipped to meet the protean needs of this important population of children," researchers said in their report.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Center for Research Resources and Seattle Children's Hospital funded the study, which was published online December 24 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, by the JAMA Network.

One of the authors received consultation fees for his research. 

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Review Date: 
December 30, 2012
Last Updated:
December 31, 2012