Systems and Standards Journal Articles
August 23, 2018

Measuring Population Health for Children with Medical Complexity

Children with medical complexity account for about 40 percent of pediatric Medicaid spending, yet comprise only 3 percent of the pediatric population.  

Clinical programs for this population of children are growing rapidly, but there is no consensus on which health outcomes should be measured to meet the triple aim of improving the patient experience of care, reducing the cost of health care, and improving the health of populations.

CMC have serious and complex chronic illnesses that result in very different health trajectories from other children. This diversity of conditions, and their variable severity, means that it has not been possible to reliably describe the overall health of this population. A Foundation grant to UCLA provided funding for a project that sought to identify a set of health domains that could be used to guide measurement of the health of this heterogenous group of children. 

The project began with an extensive review of published literature. Then, a national snowball sample of complex care caregivers, advocates, providers, researchers, and policy and health system experts participated in a group concept mapping process. Cluster mapping of these concepts identified 10 health outcome domains:  (1) basic needs, (2) inclusive education, (3) child social integration, (4) current child health-related quality of life, (5) long-term child and family self-sufficiency, (6) family social integration, (7) community system supports, (8) health care system supports, (9) a high-quality patient-centered medical home, and (10) family-centered care. 

Identification of these domains provides the basis for work to develop measures for each of them. The knowledge generated by this project should help guide the development of future programs and policies affecting children with chronic and complex special needs.

The researchers also interviewed 23 national experts on children with medical complexity to better understand population health for these children. They developed five themes that characterize this group of children and their families, concluding that measuring population health for them is challenging but necessary.  

See the abstracts from 10 Domains for Conceptualizing Health and Experts' Perspectives Toward a Population Health Approach that were published in Pediatrics. 

This research was funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.