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Open Access Research

Empirical examination of the indicator ‘pediatric gastroenteritis hospitalization rate’ based on administrative hospital data in Italy

Jacopo Lenzi1, Lorenza Luciano1, Kathryn Mack McDonald2, Simona Rosa1, Gianfranco Damiani3, Giovanni Corsello4 and Maria Pia Fantini1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

2 Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

3 Institute of Hygiene, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy

4 Department of Sciences for Health Promotion and Mother and Child Care, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy

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Italian Journal of Pediatrics 2014, 40:14  doi:10.1186/1824-7288-40-14

Published: 11 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Awareness of the importance of strengthening investments in child health and monitoring the quality of services in the pediatric field is increasing. The Pediatric Quality Indicators developed by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), use hospital administrative data to identify admissions that could be avoided through high-quality outpatient care. Building on this approach, the purpose of this study is to perform an empirical examination of the ‘pediatric gastroenteritis admission rate’ indicator in Italy, under the assumption that lower admission rates are associated with better management at the primary care level and with overall better quality of care for children.

Methods

Following the AHRQ process for evaluating quality indicators, we examined age exclusion/inclusion criteria, selection of diagnostic codes, hospitalization type, and methodological issues for the ‘pediatric gastroenteritis admission rate’. The regional variability of hospitalizations was analyzed for Italian children aged 0–17 years discharged between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011. We considered hospitalizations for the following diagnoses: non-bacterial gastroenteritis, bacterial gastroenteritis and dehydration (along with a secondary diagnosis of gastroenteritis). The data source was the hospital discharge records database. All rates were stratified by age.

Results

In the study period, there were 61,130 pediatric hospitalizations for non-bacterial gastroenteritis, 5,940 for bacterial gastroenteritis, and 38,820 for dehydration. In <1-year group, the relative risk of hospitalization for non-bacterial gastroenteritis was 24 times higher than in adolescents, then it dropped to 14.5 in 1- to 4-year-olds and to 3.2 in 5- to 9-year-olds. At the national level, the percentage of admissions for bacterial gastroenteritis was small compared with non-bacterial, while including admissions for dehydration revealed a significant variability in diagnostic coding among regions that affected the regional performance of the indicator.

Conclusions

For broadest application, we propose a ‘pediatric gastroenteritis admission rate’ that consists of including bacterial gastroenteritis and dehydration diagnoses in the numerator, as well as infants aged <3 months. We also suggest adjusting for age and including day hospital admissions. Future evaluation by a clinical panel at the national level might be helpful to determine appropriate application for such measures, and make recommendations to policy makers.

Keywords:
Health services research; Quality of care; Quality indicators; Pediatrics; Gastroenteritis