A formal emergency care system for children in the United States began in the 1980s with the establishment of specialized training programs in academic children's hospitals. The ensuing three decades have witnessed the establishment of informal regional networks for clinical care and a federally funded research consortium that allows for multisite research on evidence-based practices. However, pediatric emergency care suffers from problems common to emergency departments (EDs) in general, which include misaligned incentives for care, overcrowding, and wide variation in the quality of care. In pediatric emergency care specifically, there are problems with low-volume EDs that have neither the experience nor the equipment to treat children, poor adherence to clinical guidelines, lack of resources for mental health patients, and a lack of widely accepted performance metrics. We call for policies to address these issues, including providing after-hours care in other settings and restructuring payment and reimbursement policies to better address patients' needs.
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