The number of children with medically complex illness, such as cancer, congenital heart disease or cerebral palsy, is increasing due to advances in pediatric care that have led to increased survival in previously high-mortality conditions. This population, despite representing only 10 percent of children, accounts for a substantial proportion of overall pediatric hospital costs.
Researchers with the Pediatric Medical Home at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital have been awarded a grant from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to study strategies to help reduce these high medical costs for children with complex chronic disease. The study is designed to contribute to a national effort to reduce health care costs and improve the quality of systems of care for this costly population.
The project will seek to identify the root causes for preventable hospital admissions and emergency room use and design strategies to decrease these drivers of increased healthcare expenditures.
"Children are not just 'little adults,'" said Dr. Ryan Coller, director of quality for the department of pediatrics at UCLA and the study's principal investigator. "What drives the high costs of health care dollars in adult-onset disease is much different than children, so we must approach pediatric hospitalization differently in our efforts to find ways to identify cost-saving strategies."
The study will be housed within UCLA's Pediatric Medical Home, a primary care program founded in 2003 which now serves almost 200 medically complex children.
The "medical home" offers a parent a way to simplify, organize and coordinate the complexities of their medically fragile child's health care needs. The medical home is not a location but an approach to primary care and care coordination designed to provide a constant trusted source of care, typically by a general pediatrician.
The study is funded by an HRSA grant of $300,000 per year for three years.
Other UCLA team members include co-principal investigator Dr. Thomas Klitzner, executive director of the UCLA Pediatric Medical Home, as well as co-investigators Dr. Carlos Lerner, director of the UCLA Children's Health Center; and Dr. Paul Chung, chief of general pediatrics and director of the pediatric health outcomes and quality program.
For more information on the UCLA Pediatric Medical Home program, please visit www.uclahealth.org/medicalhome.