Objective: To characterize trends in health care utilization and costs for children diagnosed with concussion or minor head injury within a large pediatric primary-care association.
Study design: We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis from 2007 through 2013 examining all outpatient medical claims related to concussion and minor head injury from 4 commercial insurance companies for children 6-21 years of age who were patients within a large pediatric independent practice association located throughout eastern Massachusetts.
Results: Health care visits for concussion and minor head injury increased more than 4-fold during the study period, with primary-care and specialty clinics experiencing the greatest increases in the rate of visits while emergency department visits increased comparatively less. These increases were accounted for by both the proportion of children diagnosed with concussion or minor head injury (1.3% of all children in 2007 vs 3.3% in 2013) and the number of encounters per diagnosed patient (1.0 encounters per patient in 2007 vs 1.7 in 2013). Although the overall population costs devoted to care for concussion or minor head injury increased 34%, the cost per individual diagnosed child decreased 31%.
Conclusions: Over the past 7 years, health care encounters for children diagnosed with concussion or minor head injury increased substantially in eastern Massachusetts. Care for these injuries increasingly shifted from the emergency department to primary-care and specialty providers.
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