Objectives: To describe the medical follow-up ordered, the health care utilization, the appointment compliance, and the risk factors associated with noncompliance in patients who are discharged after a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) stay.
Methods: A prospective, analytic, cohort study of 111 critically ill children, age 1 day to 16 years, who were admitted to a 30-bed PICU in an urban, tertiary-care, pediatric teaching hospital compared children who were compliant with medical follow-up with those who were not. The main outcomes measured were emergent and unscheduled physician visits during the first 6 weeks after hospital discharge; compliance with ordered medical follow-up after hospital discharge; and comparisons of socioeconomic, demographic, and medical need factors between compliant and noncompliant children. Discharge orders for follow-up appointments with general pediatricians and subspecialists were collected from the chart at hospital discharge. Patients were contacted after hospital discharge to determine whether and when they received medical follow-up; 28% were found to be noncompliant. Risk factors associated with noncompliance were evaluated. Emergent and unscheduled physician visits were tracked during the first 6 weeks after hospital discharge.
Results: Lack of follow-up orders at hospital discharge did not affect the frequency of emergent visits. Children fell into 2 groups: those who were 100% compliant and those with < or =67% compliance. No socioeconomic or demographic risk factors could be identified between the 2 groups. Compared with the 100% compliant patients, patients who were compliant with < or =67% of appointments were more severely ill, as defined by higher peak pediatric risk of mortality scores during their PICU stay (11.5 vs 8.4), longer PICU length of stays (10.1 days vs 4.6 days), and longer hospital length of stays (25.5 days vs 14 days). Most predictive of noncompliance was the number of medical appointments ordered by physicians. Patients with 3 or more appointments were less likely to be compliant with follow-up. After hospital discharge, children were more likely to visit a primary care physician compared with a subspecialist (95% vs 82%). When patients were ordered to see a specialist, scheduled appointments were much better attended than the recommended appointments (92% vs 67%).
Conclusions: Lack of ordered medical follow-up did not affect emergent visits. In this group of critically ill children, a significant percentage (28%) did not receive timely medical follow-up. No socioeconomic or demographic risk factors were identified in noncompliant children. However, severity of illness (higher peak pediatric risk of mortality score, longer PICU stay, and longer hospital stay) and the number of follow-up appointments ordered were predictors of noncompliance. Potential exists for implementing strategies to improve compliance in identified populations.