Children Often Get Incorrect Health Care, New Research Finds
Children receive proper outpatient care 47% of the time, according to a study published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, USA Today reports (Elias, USA Today, 10/11).
For the study, researchers at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine examined the medical records of 1,536 children in 12 metropolitan areas and compared their treatment to 175 established standards of care in 12 clinical areas (Pugh, McClatchy/Arizona Republic, 10/11).
The study, led by Rita Mangione-Smith of the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, used data from 1996 to 2000 (USA Today, 10/11). Three-fourths of study participants were white, 82% had private health insurance and all lived in or near large- or mid-sized cities.
According to the study, participants received proper care for acute conditions about 68% of the time (Johnson, AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/10). Participants received proper care for chronic conditions about 53% of the time and received proper preventive care 41% of the time, the study found.
In addition, the study found:
- Fewer than one-third of participants ages three to six had their height and weight measured over two years (USA Today, 10/11);
- Participants received proper care for severe diarrhea 38% of the time (Black/Nyhan, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/10);
- Participants received proper care for upper respiratory infections 92% of the time and for hay fever 85% of the time;
- Participants received proper care for urinary tract infections 48% of the time;
- Participants received proper care for asthma 46% of the time; and
- About 35% of teenage participants received proper preventive care, and only 15% of those participants had their height and weight measured annually (AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/10).
Mangione-Smith said that the study results represent the "best-case scenario" because most of the participants had health insurance (Ostrom, Seattle Times, 10/11).
Researchers attributed the results of the study to physician training, which focuses on care for acute conditions, and to the reimbursement policies of health insurers, which often do not cover preventive care (USA Today, 10/11).
CMS, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation funded the study (AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/10).
Mangione-Smith said, "As a pediatrician, I was shocked by some of our findings" (Stewart, Newark Star-Ledger, 10/11). She said, "That almost all of the kids in the study had health insurance yet still failed to get good care is pretty disturbing," adding, "This study shows that health care quality for kids is an issue in itself" (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 10/11).
Study co-author Elizabeth McGlynn, an associate director at RAND, said that the study "is a real wake-up all for the American public." She added, "The care for kids is way below what many of us as parents would hope to see" (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/11).
Julia Paradise of the Kaiser Family Foundation said, "There can be dire consequences for the children, for their families and for society as a whole" when chronic conditions are not treated properly (AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/10).
James Perrin -- chief of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study -- called the results "shocking." Perrin said, "We've been lulled into complacency, thinking this kind of thing doesn't happen with children," but "we need much more accountability for what's going on with children's health" (USA Today, 10/11).
CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline.