Home Health Care Availability and Discharge Delays in Children With Medical Complexity


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.


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.


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.


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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