Patient Care

Increased Ordering of Diagnostic Tests Associated with Longer Lengths of Stay in Pediatric Pneumonia


Clinical question: What is the relationship between variation in resource utilization and outcomes in children with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)?

Background: Variation in clinical care, particularly when driven by provider preferences, often highlights opportunities for improvement in the quality of our care. CAP is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization in children. The relationship between variation in care processes, utilization, and outcomes in pediatric CAP is not well defined.

Study design: Retrospective database review.

Setting: Twenty-nine freestanding children's hospitals.

Synopsis: The Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) database was used to review utilization and outcomes data on 43,819 children admitted with nonsevere CAP during a five-year period. Substantial degrees of variation in test ordering, empiric antibiotic selection, length of stay (LOS), and 14-day readmissions were found. An association was noted between increased resource utilization—specifically, ordering of diagnostic tests—and longer LOS.

The association between increased resource utilization and LOS has been suggested in other work in respiratory illness in children. Although the retrospective nature of this work precludes detailed resolution of whether confounding by severity was an issue, this appears unlikely based on the relatively homogeneous patient populations and hospital types. Additional limitations of this work exist, and include an inability to further assess the appropriateness of the testing that was ordered—as well as relatively crude rankings of hospitals based on resource utilization. Nevertheless, in an era where a premium is placed on finding value in clinical medicine, these results should prompt further exploration of the link between testing and LOS in children hospitalized with CAP.

Bottom line: Unnecessary testing in children hospitalized with pneumonia may lead to longer LOS.

Citation: Brogan TV, Hall M, Williams DJ, et al. Variability in processes of care and outcomes among children hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia. Ped Infect Dis J. 2012;31:1036-1041.

Reviewed by Pediatric Editor Mark Shen, MD, SFHM, medical director of hospital medicine at Dell Children's Medical Center, Austin, Texas.

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