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Pediatrics. 2004 Jan;113(1 Pt 2):199-209.

Quality measures for children's health care.

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  • 1Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



The ability to measure and improve the quality of children's health care is of national importance. Despite the existence of numerous health care quality measures, the collective ability of measures to assess children's health care quality is unclear. A review of existing health care quality measures for children is timely for both assessing the current state of quality measures for children and identifying areas requiring additional research and development.


To identify and collect current health care quality measures for child health and then to systematically categorize and classify measures and identify gaps in child health care quality measures requiring additional development.


We first identified child health care quality instruments with assistance from staff at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, experts in the field, the Computerized Needs-oriented Quality Measurement Evaluation System, the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, and a medical literature review. From these instruments, we then selected clinical performance measures applicable to children (aged 0-18 years). We categorized the individual measures into the Institute of Medicine's framework for the National Health Care Quality Report. The framework includes health care quality domains (patient safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, and timeliness) and patient-perspective domains (staying healthy, getting better, living with illness, and end-of-life care). We then determined the balance of the measures (how well they assess care for all children versus children with special health care needs) and their comprehensiveness (how well the measures apply to the developmental range of children). Finally, we analyzed the ability of the measures to assess equity in care.


We identified 19 measure sets, and 396 individual measures were used to assess children's health care quality. The distribution of measures in the health care quality domains was: safety, 14.4%; effectiveness, 59.1%; patient-centeredness, 32.1%; and timeliness, 33.3%. The distribution of measures in the patient-perspective domains was: staying healthy, 24%; getting better, 40.2%; living with illness, 17.4%; end of life, 0%; and multidimensional, 23.5% (measures were multidimensional if they applied to >1 domain). Most of the measures were meant for use in the general pediatric population (81.1%), with a significant proportion designed for children with special health care needs (18.9%). The majority (>or=79%) of the measures could be applied to children across all age groups. However, there were relatively few measures designed specifically for each developmental stage. Regarding the use of measures to study equity in health care, 6 of the measure sets have been used in previous studies of equity. All the survey measure sets contain items that identify patients at risk for poor outcomes, and 4 are available in languages other than English. However, only 1 survey (Consumer Assessment of Health Plans) has undergone studies of cross-cultural validation. Among the measure sets based on administrative data, 3 included infant mortality, a well-known measure of health disparity.


There are several instruments designed to measure health care quality for children. Despite this, we found relatively few measures for assessing patient safety and living with illness and none for end-of-life care. Few measures are designed for specific age categories among children. Although equity is an overarching concern in health care quality, the application of current measures to assess disparities has been limited. These areas need additional research and development for a more complete assessment of health care quality for children.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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