COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Use of health care services by inner-city infants in an early discharge program

W O Cooper, U R Kotagal, H D Atherton, C A Lippert, E Bragg, E F Donovan, P H Perlstein
Pediatrics 1996, 98 (4): 686-91
8885947

OBJECTIVE: To assess the use of health care services by inner-city infants enrolled in an early discharge program who received care in tertiary care children's hospital primary care clinic.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: Large, metropolitan university hospital and a children's hospital.

PATIENTS: Term infants cared for in a single full-term nursery, before and after implementation of a coordinated early discharge program, who received primary care at the children's hospital.

INTERVENTION: The coordinated Early Discharge Program was characterized by in-hospital visits by hospital-based coordinating nurses, home visits by nurses from a home nursing agency, and communication with physicians for necessary adjustments in postdischarge care.

METHODS: After linking birth hospital records and the children's hospital medical records, a retrospective chart review was performed to obtain maternal demographic information and birth hospital length of stay, as well as the infants' attendance at primary care clinic, immunizations, emergency department visits, and rehospitalization.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Number of primary care visits in the first 3 months of life, completion of one series of immunizations by 3 months of life, and number of emergency department visits and rehospitalization during the first 3 months of life.

RESULTS: The early discharge group (n = 253) had a significantly shorter birth hospital length of stay (35 +/- 24 hours, mean +/- SD) when compared with the control group (n = 212) (52 +/- 14 hours). The early discharge group was also younger than the control group at the first primary care visit, with significantly more infants visiting the primary care clinic in the first month of life. There was also a significant difference between the groups in the mean number of emergency department visits (early discharge = .61 visits/patient, control = .79 visits/patient) and the proportion of patients with no emergency department visits during the first 3 months of life (early discharge = 57%, control = 43%). There was no difference between the two groups in the proportion of infants completing one series of immunizations or in the number of infants rehospitalized during the study period.

CONCLUSIONS: Coordinated early discharge with home nursing visits for inner-city infants may result in earlier use of primary care services. Furthermore, there is a significant decrease in use of the emergency department during the first 3 months of life, and no increase in rehospitalization.

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