It is no surprise that children can get seriously ill and suffer major injuries. What may come as a surprise is the sheer volume of pediatric visits to Emergency Departments (ED) in the United States. The National Library of Medicine reports that over 30 million children seek care at the ED every single year. Even more concerning, 97% of the hospitals that provide care for these injured and ill children are not children’s hospitals. The professionals who provide care are unlikely to have the training and experience to deliver pediatric specific care.
One effort to address this problem is to require pediatric readiness measures within EDs.
Are children getting the care they need?
Researchers recently published an investigation into ED pediatric care in hospitals throughout the nation in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). They investigated the treatment of almost 800,000 children in 983 EDs and found that those who met pediatric readiness standards were far more likely to provide quality care. This seems like a logical conclusion — have pediatric trained staff, and children are more likely to receive the care they need. Yet most EDs fail to provide this relatively basic service to their communities.
One potential resolution is the use of required pediatric readiness measures.
What is pediatric readiness?
The researchers in the investigation noted above define pediatric readiness as meeting six criteria:
- Coordination of patient care,
- Personnel with appropriate training,
- Quality improvement activities,
- Safety initiatives,
- Policies and procedures in place to address pediatric needs, and
- Equipment for young patients.
The researchers with the study have called on national hospital accreditation organizations to adopt these pediatric readiness standards. This would better ensure EDs throughout the nation are able to provide quality care to children in emergency situations. Based on the information gathered in this investigation, the researchers estimate that had these hospitals utilized the pediatric readiness standards, they could have prevented more than 1,000 pediatric deaths.
Such measures would mean more than a reduction in pediatric mortality rates; it would also mean the medical team could provide treatment to reduce the risk of injuries related to delayed treatment. This could include needed medical procedures and intubation to better ensure oxygen reaches the child’s brain.
What are lawmakers doing to address this problem?
Some have passed laws that require hospital systems to train their staff to provide pediatric emergency services. Although not as qualified as a specialist credentialed in emergency pediatrics, pediatric readiness makes a difference. New Jersey is one of three states that require hospitals to be equipped to provide care for their youngest patients. However, according to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, New Jersey state officials have failed to enforce these requirements.