The Quality of Ambulatory Care Delivered to Children in the United States

Published in: The New England Journal of Medicine, v. 357, no. 15, Oct. 11, 2007, p. 1515-1523

Posted on RAND.org on October 10, 2007

by Rita Mangione-Smith, Alison H. DeCristofaro, Claude Messan Setodji, Joan Keesey, David J. Klein, John L. Adams, Mark A. Schuster, Elizabeth A. McGlynn

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BACKGROUND: Little is known about the magnitude of deficits in the quality of care delivered to children, since comprehensive studies have been lacking. METHODS: The authors assessed the extent to which care processes recommended for pediatric outpatients are delivered. Quality indicators were developed with the use of the RAND-UCLA modified Delphi method. Parents of 1536 children who were randomly selected from 12 metropolitan areas provided written informed consent to obtain medical records from all providers who had seen the children during the 2-year period before the date of study recruitment. Trained nurses abstracted these medical records. Composite quality scores were calculated by dividing the number of times indicated care was documented as having been ordered or delivered by the number of times a care process was indicated. RESULTS: On average, according to data in the medical records, children in the study received 46.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 44.5 to 48.4) of the indicated care. They received 67.6% (95% CI, 63.9 to 71.3) of the indicated care for acute medical problems, 53.4% (95% CI, 50.0 to 56.8) of the indicated care for chronic medical conditions, and 40.7% (95% CI, 38.1 to 43.4) of the indicated preventive care. Quality varied according to the clinical area, with the rate of adherence to indicated care ranging from 92.0% (95% CI, 89.9 to 94.1) for upper respiratory tract infections to 34.5% (95% CI, 31.0 to 37.9) for preventive services for adolescents. CONCLUSIONS: Deficits in the quality of care provided to children appear to be similar in magnitude to those previously reported for adults. Strategies to reduce these apparent deficits are needed.

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