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Pediatrics. 2003 Nov;112(5):1021-30.

Keeping children out of hospitals: parents' and physicians' perspectives on how pediatric hospitalizations for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions can be avoided.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Center for the Advancement of Urban Children, Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.



Avoidable hospitalization conditions (AHCs) are hospitalizations that potentially can be avoided with timely, appropriate outpatient care. The specific reasons for avoidability, and parents and physicians' perspectives on the proportion of actually avoidable pediatric AHCs, have not been examined adequately.


To identify how pediatric hospitalizations might be avoided, and to determine the proportion of avoidable AHCs according to parents and physicians of hospitalized children.


Cross-sectional survey of parents, primary care physicians (PCPs), and inpatient attending physicians (IAPs) of a consecutive series of children who were admitted with AHCs to an urban hospital in a 14-month period.


The 554 hospitalized children had a median age of 4 years; most were poor (median annual family income: 12,000 dollars), nonwhite (91%), and had public (73%) or no (16%) health insurance. The most frequent AHC diagnoses were asthma (43%), dehydration/gastroenteritis (16%), pneumonia (11%), seizure disorder (8%), and skin infections (8%). Only 25% of parents said that their child's admission was avoidable, compared with 29% of PCPs and 32% of IAPs. The proportion of AHC hospitalizations assessed as avoidable varied according to the source or combination of sources, from 13% for agreement among all 3 sources to 46% as identified by any 1 of the 3 sources. PCPs (71%) and IAPs (48%) significantly more often than parents (35%) cited parent/patient-related reasons for how hospitalizations could have been avoided, including adhering to and refilling medications, better outpatient follow-up, and avoiding known disease triggers. Parents (48%) significantly more often than PCPs (18%) and IAPs (37%) cited physician-related reasons for how hospitalizations could have been avoided, including better education by physicians about the child's condition, and better quality of care. Multivariate analyses revealed that an age >or=11 years, an asthma diagnosis, working poor family income, and having no health insurance were associated with approximately double to triple the odds of an avoidable hospitalization.


The proportion of AHCs assessed as avoidable varies from 13% to 46%, depending on the source. Adolescents, children with asthma, children from working-poor families, and uninsured children are at greatest risk for avoidable hospitalizations. Many pediatric hospitalizations might be avoided if parents and children were better educated about the child's condition, medications, the need for follow-up care, and the importance of avoiding known disease triggers. Direct assessment by parents and physicians of hospitalized children can be an informative way to examine the proportion of avoidable pediatric hospitalizations and how they can be prevented.

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