Effect of a Social Care Intervention on Health Care Experiences of Caregivers of Hospitalized Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Pediatr. 2023 Dec 1;177(12):1266-1275. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.4596.


Importance: Health-related social risks (HRSRs), like food and housing insecurity, are stigmatized conditions that, when addressed in clinical settings, could inadvertently compromise health care experiences.

Objective: To test the noninferiority hypothesis that a low-intensity, high-scale social care intervention does not promote experiences of discrimination or diminish satisfaction with care compared to usual care.

Design, setting, and participants: This was a double-blind randomized clinical trial conducted from November 2020 to June 2022 with 12-month follow-up analyzing data obtained 1 week after baseline intervention at a 155-bed academic urban children's hospital with 5300 annual admissions. Participants were recruited from their children's hospital rooms during their children's inpatient hospital stays. Inclusion criteria were identifying as the primary caregiver of a child younger than 18 years who was hospitalized in the general, intensive care, or transplant units; living in 1 of 42 target zip codes; and consenting to receive text messages. Caregivers of healthy newborns and caregivers of children expected to be hospitalized for less than 24 hours or greater than 30 days were excluded. A total of 637 eligible parents and caregivers were enrolled.

Interventions: Participants were randomized to usual care or usual care plus CommunityRx, a low-intensity, universally delivered, electronic medical record-integrated social care assistance intervention providing personalized information about local resources alongside education about HRSRs and how to access additional support. Usual care included an admission brochure about hospital-based free food options and nonsystematic provision of resource information.

Main outcomes and measures: Experiences of discrimination, measured using the Discrimination in Medical Settings Scale (range 7-35; higher scores indicate more frequent discrimination) and satisfaction with hospital discharge 1 week postdischarge using Child HCAHPS (range 0-100; higher scores indicate higher satisfaction). The a priori noninferiority margins (control minus intervention) were -0.9 (discrimination) and 1.6 (satisfaction).

Results: Of 637 eligible caregiver participants, most identified as female (n = 600 [94.3%]), Black (n = 505 [79.4%]), and had household income less than $50 000 per year (n = 488 [78.5%]). One-third were experiencing food insecurity (n = 223). Half of participants reported discrimination experiences during the pediatric hospitalization (n = 259). Discrimination experiences among the intervention group were noninferior to those among the control group (mean [SD] score: control, 10.3 [4.7] vs intervention, 10.0 [4.6]; difference, 0.2; 90% CI, -0.5 to 0.9). Mean (SD) satisfaction with discharge was high (control, 84.2 [23.8] vs intervention, 81.9 [24.8]), but evidence was insufficient to support intervention noninferiority for this end point (difference, 2.3; 90% CI, -1.2 to 5.8). Food security status did not moderate the relationship between intervention and either outcome.

Conclusions and relevance: The findings suggest that a universally delivered social care assistance intervention did not promote caregiver experiences of discrimination during a child's hospitalization but were inconclusive regarding satisfaction.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04171999.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Caregivers*
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Patient Discharge
  • Social Support

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04171999