Post-acute care for children with special health care needs

Charles D. Phillips, Ph.D., M.P.H.,  Chau Truong, M.P.H., Hye-Chung Kum, Ph.D., Obioma Nwaiwu, Ph.D., M.B.B.S., Robert Ohsfeldt, Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal, Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 49-57


Almost all studies of post-acute care (PAC) focus on older persons, frequently those suffering from chronic health problems. Some research is available on PAC for the pediatric population in general. However, very few studies focus on PAC services for children with special health care needs (SHCN).


Children with special health care needs, Post-acute care, Disabilities, Child and maternal health

To investigate factors affecting the provision of PAC to children with SHCN.


Pooled cross-sectional data from Texas Department of State Health Services hospital discharge database from 2011-2014 were analyzed. Publicly available algorithms identified chronic conditions, complex chronic conditions, and the principal problem leading to hospitalization. Analysis involved estimating two logistic regressions, with clustered robust standard errors, concerning the likelihood of receiving PAC and where that PAC was delivered. Models included patient characteristics and conditions, as well as hospital characteristics and location.


Only 5.8 percent of discharges for children with SHCN resulted in the provision of PAC. Two-thirds of PAC was provided in a health care facility (HCF). Severity of illness and the number of complex chronic conditions, though not the number of chronic problems, made PAC more likely. Patient demographics had no effect on PAC decisions. Hospital type and location also affected PAC decision-making.


PAC was provided to relatively few children with SHCN, which raises questions concerning the potential underutilization of PAC for children with SHCN. Also, the provision of most PAC in a HCF (66%) seems at odds with professional judgment and family preferences indicating that health care for children with SHCN is best provided in the home.