Association of Children's Hospital Status with Value for Common Surgical Conditions

Mehul V. Raval*, Audra J. Reiter, Ian M. McCarthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Importance: Although children's hospitals (CH) provide a substantial proportion of highly specialized pediatric care in the United States, the value of CH compared with non-children's hospitals (NCH) for routine surgical procedures is unknown. Objective: To examine the value of CH for routine surgical procedures by assessing clinical outcomes and payment data. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study examined pediatric patients undergoing 1 of 13 commonly performed surgical procedures between 2010 and 2015 with 90-day follow-up using administrative data from the Health Care Cost Institute. Data analysis was conducted from July 2019 to December 2021. Exposures: The primary exposure was tier of CH status, defined using self-reported pediatric services, affiliation with pediatric focused programs, and validated based on proportion of pediatric admissions. Main Outcomes and Measures: Payments for common surgical procedures from private insurers and overall complication and readmission rates at 30, 60, and 90 days. Results: There were 368220 pediatric patients who underwent one of the surgical procedures of interest; 220899 (60.0%) of the patients were male; 118977 (32.3%) had their procedure at freestanding CH (CH-A), 75256 (20.4%) at CH attached to an adult hospital (CH-B), and 173987 (47.3%) at NCH. The mean (SD) payment for all procedures at CH-A was $6533.56 ($6399.97), $5847.50 ($4947.47) at CH-B, and $5034.25 ($4787.07) at NCH. The mean (SD) overall complication rate was 0.004 (0.06) at CH-A, 0.01 (0.07) at CH-B, and 0.003 (0.06) at NCH. Readmission rates at 30, 60, and 90 days were similar across all hospital types. After adjusting for zip code, year, surgery, surgery setting, and observable patient, hospital, and county characteristics, the estimated payments for inpatient common procedures were 39% higher at CH-A than at NCH. Payments for outpatient common procedures were 34% higher at CH-A than at NCH. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, children who underwent common surgical procedures had equivalent clinical outcomes at CH and NCH but the procedures were associated with higher payments and, thus, overall lower value care. To ensure delivery of optimal value to patients and payers, more research is needed to evaluate mechanisms to ensure access, decrease costs, and improve value at both CH and NCH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2218348
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 24 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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