To examine the effectiveness of hospital-based comprehensive care programs in improving the quality of care for children with special health care needs.
A systematic review was conducted using Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts SocioFile, and Web of Science.
Evaluations of comprehensive care programs for categorical (those with single disease) and noncategorical groups of children with special health care needs were included. Selected articles were reviewed independently by 2 raters.
Models of care focused on comprehensive care based at least partially in a hospital setting. The main outcome measures were the proportions of studies demonstrating improvement in the Institute of Medicine's quality-of-care domains (effectiveness of care, efficiency of care, patient or family centeredness, patient safety, timeliness of care, and equity of care).
Thirty-three unique programs were included, 13 (39%) of which were randomized controlled trials. Improved outcomes most commonly reported were efficiency of care (64% [49 of 76 outcomes]), effectiveness of care (60% [57 of 95 outcomes]), and patient or family centeredness (53% [10 of 19 outcomes). Outcomes less commonly evaluated were patient safety (9% [3 of 33 programs]), timeliness of care (6% [2 of 33 programs]), and equity of care (0%). Randomized controlled trials occurred more frequently in studies evaluating categorical vs noncategorical disease populations (11 of 17 [65%] vs 2 of 16 [17%], P = .008).
Although positive, the evidence supporting comprehensive hospital-based programs for children with special health care needs is restricted primarily to nonexperimental studies of children with categorical diseases and is limited by inadequate outcome measures. Additional high-quality evidence with appropriate comparative groups and broad outcomes is necessary to justify continued development and growth of programs for broad groups of children with special health care needs.