Non-Children's Hospitals Are Serving a Majority of US Children

May 14, 2005

A study of children's hospitalizations in the US reveals that only one third of a total 1.7 million admissions in 2000 were to children's hospitals with specialized pediatric expertise, it was reported here today.

A study of children's hospitalizations in the US reveals that only one third of a total 1.7 million admissions in 2000 were to children's hospitals with specialized pediatric expertise, it was reported here today.

Richard Wasserman, MD, University of Vermont professor of pediatrics, and his colleagues examined data from the 2000 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kid's Inpatient Database for the study. The team found that 64.4% of hospitalizations among children between 1 and 17 years of age were to non-children's hospitals. More than one in 20 of these was a mental health admission. When discharges from the non-children's hospitals were compared to discharges from children's hospitals (these are defined by the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions as primarily organized and operated for the care of children and youth), significantly more discharges in non-children's hospitals were for females between 15 and 17 years old, patients living a low-income ZIP code, and uninsured children.

"This study is the first detailed look at this set of issues, providing a picture of different institutional burdens," said Wasserman, the study's lead investigator. "While our results do not assess the quality of care, we hypothesize that non-children's hospitals may be under-resourced in pediatric expertise while providing an excess of care for the poor and for mental health conditions."