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Acad Emerg Med. 2018 Dec;25(12):1355-1364. doi: 10.1111/acem.13489. Epub 2018 Jul 4.

Use of a National Database to Assess Pediatric Emergency Care Across United States Emergency Departments.

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Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA.
Division of General Pediatrics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA.



Differences in emergency care for children exist between general and pediatric emergency departments (EDs). Some pediatric quality measures are available but are not routinely employed nationwide. We sought to create a short list of applied measures that would provide a starting point for EDs to measure pediatric emergency care quality and to compare care between general and pediatric EDs for these measures.


Previously reported lists comprising 465 pediatric emergency care quality measures were reconciled. Preset criteria were used to create a diverse list of quality measures measurable using a national database. We used the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2010 to 2015 to measure performance. Measures were excluded for total observation counts under a prespecified power threshold, being unmeasurable in the data set, or for missing clear definitions. Using survey-weighted statistics, we reported summary performance (mean, proportion, or count) with 95% confidence intervals for each analyzed quality measure and compared general and pediatric ED performance.


Among 465 quality measures, 28 (6%) were included in the analysis, including seven condition-specific measures and 21 general measures. We analyzed a sample of 36,430 visits corresponding to 179.0 million survey-weighted ED visits, of which 150.8 million (84.3%) were in general EDs. Performance was better in pediatric EDs for three of seven condition-specific measures, including antibiotics for viral infections (-6.2%), chest X-rays for asthma (-18.7%), and topical anesthesia for wound closures (+25.7%). Performance was similar for four of seven condition-specific measures: computed tomography for head trauma, steroids for asthma, steroids for croup, and oral rehydration for dehydration. Compared with pediatric EDs, general EDs discharged and transferred higher proportions of children, had shorter lengths of stay, and sent patients home with fewer prescriptions. General EDs obtained fewer pain scores for injured children. Pediatric EDs had a lower proportion of pediatric visits in which patients left against medical advice. General and pediatric EDs had similar rates of mortality, left without being seen, incomplete vital signs, labs in nonacute patients, and similar numbers of medications given per patient.


Using a national sample of ED visits, we demonstrated the feasibility of using nationally representative data to assess quality measures for children cared for in the ED. Differences between pediatric and general ED care identify targets for quality improvement.


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