Pediatric chronic critical illness: Reducing excess hospitalizations

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OBJECTIVES: The past 2 decades have seen an expanding pediatric population that is chronically critically ill: Children with repeated and prolonged hospitalizations and ongoing dependence on technologies to sustain vital functions. Although illness complexity prompts many hospitalizations, our goal with this study was to explore modifiable patient, family, and health system contributions to excess hospital days for children with chronic critical illness (CCI). METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 51 stakeholders known for their CCI expertise. Stakeholders were from 5 metropolitan areas and were either (1) interdisciplinary providers (inpatient and/or outpatient clinicians, home health providers, foster care affiliates, or policy professionals) or (2) parents of children with CCI. Interview transcripts were qualitatively analyzed for themes. RESULTS: All stakeholders agreed that homelike settings are ideal care sites for children with CCI, yet in every region these children experience prolonged hospitalizations. The perceived causes of excess hospital days are (1) inadequate communication and coordination within health care teams and between clinicians and families, (2) widespread gaps in qualified pediatric home health services and durable medical equipment providers, (3) inconsistent parent support, and (4) policies that limit pediatric service eligibility, state-supported case management, and nonhospital care sites. CONCLUSIONS: Despite an expanding pediatric population with CCI, we lack an intentional care model to minimize their hospitalizations. In this study, we generate several hypotheses for exploring the potential impact of expanded access to home nursing, robust care coordination, and family and clinician support to reduce hospital days for this population of high health care utilizers.




Boss, R. D., Williams, E. P., Henderson, C. M., Seltzer, R. R., Shapiro, M. C., Hahn, E., & Hutton, N. (2017). Pediatric chronic critical illness: Reducing excess hospitalizations. Hospital Pediatrics, 7(8), 460–470.

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