Background: Little is known about the experience of children and families with pediatric care. Asking parents about their experiences and the treatment of their children in health care plans can yield important information about selected aspects of medical care quality. Such data can be used to motivate, focus, and evaluate quality improvement efforts.
Methods: Development of the Child Core Survey followed the survey development principles of the Consumer Assessment of Health Plan Study (CAHPS) project, starting with assembly of existing instruments, consultation with experts, focus groups, and cognitive testing. A field test of the survey was conducted by mail among members enrolled in 1 of 25 plans originally identified as providing health care services to the public employees of the state of Washington (response rate, 52%).
Results: The 3,083 respondents rated personal doctors most highly, with overall care and specialty care rated nearly as well, and plan administration rated lowest. Parent-clinician and child-clinician communication, as well as spending sufficient time with the child were the strongest correlates of assessments of overall care and of personal doctors. Plans differed significantly in their performance along all the dimensions of child health care assessed in the survey except for aspects of access ("getting the care you need").
Implications: The Child Core Survey from the CAHPS provides a readily accessible method to assess the interpersonal care of children. Such data could be used to make plans accountable to the needs of children, to focus specific improvement initiatives, or both.