Care coordination, medical complexity, and unmet need for prescription medications among children with special health care needs

Res Social Adm Pharm. May-Jun 2017;13(3):524-529. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2016.05.043. Epub 2016 May 20.


Background: Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) have multiple unmet health care needs including that of prescription medications.

Objectives: The objectives of this study were twofold: 1) to quantify and compare unmet needs for prescription medications for subgroups of CSHCN without and with medical complexity (CMC)-those who have multiple, chronic, and complex medical conditions associated with severe functional limitations and high utilization of health care resources, and 2) to describe its association with receipt of effective care coordination services and level of medical complexity.

Method: A secondary data analysis of the 2009/2010 National Survey of CSHCN, a nationally representative telephone survey of parents of CSHCN, was conducted. Logistic regression models were constructed to determine associations between unmet need for prescription medications and medical complexity and care coordination for families of CSHCN, while controlling for demographic variables such as race, insurance, education level, and household income. Analyses accounted for the complex survey design and sampling weights.

Results: CMC represented about 3% of CSHCN. CMC parents reported significantly more unmet need for prescription medications and care coordination (4%, 68%), compared to Non-CMC parents (2%, 40%). Greater unmet need for prescription medications was associated with unmet care coordination (adjusted OR 3.81; 95% CI: 2.70-5.40) and greater medical complexity (adjusted OR 2.01; 95% CI: 1.00-4.03).

Conclusions: Traditional care coordination is primarily facilitated by nurses and nurse practitioners with little formal training in medication management. However, pharmacists are rarely part of the CSHCN care coordination model. As care delivery models for these children evolve, and given the complexity of and numerous transitions of care for these patients, pharmacists can play an integral role to improve unmet needs for prescription medications.

Keywords: Care coordination; Children with medical complexity; Prescription medications; Unmet health care needs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Disabled Children / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • United States


  • Prescription Drugs