Implementation of a universal screening and follow-up care system for pediatric developmental and behavioral health in federally qualified health center sites

Fam Syst Health. 2023 Dec;41(4):454-466. doi: 10.1037/fsh0000803. Epub 2023 May 25.


Background: Despite guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many pediatric practices still do not have standardized screening processes in place to identify children with developmental delays. From April 2014 to April 2017, six federally qualified health center (FQHC) sites in Northern California implemented an intervention to increase (a) standardized developmental screening at recommended intervals and (b) follow-up care and support for early intervention services.

Method: The intervention aimed to optimize each site's screening processes, supported by an automated electronic tablet-based system. To improve follow-up support, social workers were hired to conduct follow-up clinical assessments, provide psychosocial education and treatment, provide referrals and case management support, and collaborate with service partners. We analyze operational and implementation data to characterize site adoption, patient reach, implementation processes, and intervention effectiveness.

Results: During the intervention's final year, when tablet-based screening was adopted, the sites screened an estimated 6,550 children ages 0-18 at 23 intervals in three domains (developmental, autism, and psychosocial/behavioral), compared to a baseline where they screened ages 0-3 at four intervals in one domain. Screening rates increased from 65.3% to 75.5% after automation was extended from the first to the second site, then to 91.8% after automation was expanded to the remaining sites. Follow-up visit rates ranged between 74% and 88%.

Conclusions: Implementation of a multicomponent developmental and behavioral health screening and follow-up care intervention enabled FQHC sites to meet AAP recommendations and provide follow-up support. Disseminating the intervention may support population-level improvement in early detection and intervention for developmental delays and behavioral health concerns. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare*
  • Child
  • Early Intervention, Educational
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Psychiatry*
  • Referral and Consultation