BACKGROUND:

An increasing proportion of pediatric hospital days are attributed to technology-dependent children. The impact that a pediatric home care nursing (HCN) shortage has on increasing length of hospital stay and readmissions in this population is not well documented.

METHODS:

We conducted a 12-month multisite prospective study of children with medical complexity discharging with home health. We studied the following 2 cohorts: new patients discharging for the first time to home nursing and existing patients discharging from the hospital to previously established home nursing. A modified delay tool was used to categorize causes, delayed discharge (DD) days, and unplanned 90-day readmissions.

RESULTS:

DD occurred in 68.5% of 54 new patients and 9.2% of 131 existing patients. Lack of HCN was the most frequent cause of DD, increasing costs and directly accounting for an average length of stay increase of 53.9 days (range: 4–204) and 35.7 days (3–63) for new and existing patients, respectively. Of 1582 DDs, 1454 (91.9%) were directly attributed to lack of HCN availability. DD was associated with younger age and tracheostomy. Unplanned 90-day readmissions were due to medical setbacks (96.7% of cases) and occurred in 53.7% and 45.0% of new and existing patients, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS:

DD and related costs are primarily associated with shortage of HCN and predominantly affect patients new to HCN. Medical setbacks are the most common causes of unplanned 90-day readmissions. Increasing the availability of home care nurses or postacute care facilities could reduce costly hospital length of stay.

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