Objective To compare inpatient resource use trends for healthy children and children with chronic health conditions of varying degrees of medical complexity.
Design Retrospective cohort analysis.
Setting Twenty-eight US children's hospitals.
Patients A total of 1 526 051 unique patients hospitalized from January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2009, who were assigned to 1 of 5 chronic condition groups using 3M's Clinical Risk Group software.
Main Outcome Measures Trends in the number of patients, hospitalizations, hospital days, and charges analyzed with linear regression.
Results Between 2004 and 2009, hospitals experienced a greater increase in the number of children hospitalized with vs without a chronic condition (19.2% vs 13.7% cumulative increase, P < .001). The greatest cumulative increase (32.5%) was attributable to children with a significant chronic condition affecting 2 or more body systems, who accounted for 19.2% (n = 63 203) of patients, 27.2% (n = 111 685) of hospital discharges, 48.9% (n = 1.1 million) of hospital days, and 53.2% ($9.2 billion) of hospital charges in 2009. These children had a higher percentage of Medicaid use (56.5% vs 49.7%; P < .001) compared with children without a chronic condition. Cerebral palsy (9179 [14.6%]) and asthma (13 708 [21.8%]) were the most common primary diagnosis and comorbidity, respectively, observed among these patients.
Conclusions Patients with a chronic condition increasingly used more resources in a group of children's hospitals than patients without a chronic condition. The greatest growth was observed in hospitalized children with chronic conditions affecting 2 or more body systems. Children's hospitals must ensure that their inpatient care systems and payment structures are equipped to meet the protean needs of this important population of children.