Asthma leads spending on avoidable pediatric inpatient stays


Hospital charges for the treatment of children with asthma made up nearly half of all potentially avoidable pediatric inpatient costs in 2017, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Cost of potentially avoidable pediatric inpatient stays, 2017

The cost of potentially avoidable visits for asthma that year was $278 million, versus $284 million combined for the other three conditions “that evidence suggests may be avoidable, in part, through timely and quality primary and preventive care,” Kimberly W. McDermott, PhD, and H. Joanna Jiang, PhD, said in an AHRQ statistical brief.

Those three other conditions are diabetes short-term complications, gastroenteritis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Neonatal stays were excluded from the analysis, Dr. McDermott of IBM Watson Health and Dr. Jiang of the AHRQ noted.

The state inpatient databases of the AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project included 1.4 million inpatient stays among children aged 3 months to 17 years in 2017, of which 8% (108,300) were deemed potentially preventable. Hospital charges for the preventable stays came to $561.6 million, or 3% of the $20 billion in total costs for all nonneonatal stays, they said.

Rates of potentially avoidable stays for asthma (159 per 100,000 population), gastroenteritis (90 per 100,000), and UTIs (41 per 100,000) were highest for children aged 0-4 years and generally decreased with age, but diabetes stays increased with age, rising from 12 per 100,000 in children aged 5-9 years to 38 per 100,000 for those 15-17 years old, the researchers said.

Black children had a much higher rate of potentially avoidable stays for asthma (218 per 100,000) than did Hispanic children (74), Asian/Pacific Islander children (46), or white children (43), but children classified as other race/ethnicity were higher still: 380 per 100,000. Rates for children classified as other race/ethnicity were highest for the other three conditions as well, they reported.

Comparisons by sex for the four conditions ended up in a 2-2 tie: Girls had higher rates for diabetes (28 vs. 23) and UTIs (35 vs. 8), and boys had higher rates for asthma (96 vs. 67) and gastroenteritis (38 vs. 35), Dr. McDermott and Dr. Jiang reported.

SOURCE: McDermott KW, Jiang HJ. HCUP Statistical Brief #259. June 2020.

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