Patients’ needs may not dictate how pediatric care is given

For parents, there is little scarier than when their child is sick or injured. The need for instant care is crucial in many cases, and parents expect that doctors will give the young patients the best care that they can. However, the cases in which one child is given one level of care and a different patient is given a different level of care is not always due to medical need. Instead, a new study finds that the level of care correlates more closely with the preferences of the care provider.

The study looked at medical care of children in three New England states. While not a large geographical area, the level of care provided to children varied wildly. Some locales had twice as many emergency room visits for child injury and illness as did other locals; the rate of tonsil removal was twice as high in some areas than in others.

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Researchers attributed some of the variance to the fact that pediatricians are not necessarily located in the areas that have a younger population and thus would need them more. However, others have suggested that the problem isn’t simply due to geography but rather a lack of consistent quality measures for pediatric care.

One fear that experts have about resolving the situation is that if every state comes up with its own list of quality measures for pediatric care to avoid medical malpractice, then clear guidelines across the country could become more muddled, not less. Fifty different guidelines wouldn’t necessarily lead to more clarity. However, if they do improve responsiveness and patient care, then it might still be progress.

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Source: Modern Healthcare, “Pediatric care varies due to doc preference, not patient need, Dartmouth report says,” Andis Robeznieks, Dec. 11, 2013

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