Improving Timeliness of Medical Evaluations for Children Entering Foster Care.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children in foster care (FC) have an initial medical evaluation within 3 days of custody initiation; however, this vulnerable population often suffers from disjointed care. Our aim was to improve the mean time to initial foster care evaluation (TIE) from 32 to <7 days within 12 months for children in FC in Durham County, North Carolina. METHODS:This study was a time series, quality improvement project used to target interventions within an academic clinic and a community agency. Interventions were tested through multiple plan-do-study-act cycles. Control charts of the primary outcome, the TIE, were constructed. Charts were annotated with the dates of interventions, including workshops, performance feedback, integration of state forms, identification of appointments, development of an urgent appointment pathway, and empowerment of the scheduler. RESULTS:The mean TIE improved from 32 to 9 days within 12 months. Significant improvement in the following 2 process measures contributed to this: the time from custody initiation to the referral date improved from an average of 10 to 3 days, and the time from referral date to the initial evaluation improved from an average of 22 to 6 days. CONCLUSIONS:Improvement interventions and increased collaboration between medical and child welfare agencies can result in significant improvement of the TIE. However, despite improvement efforts, challenges remain in meeting the AAP 3-day TIE recommendation. We recommend further assessment of the AAP guideline as it relates to implementation feasibility and health outcomes of children in FC.
Terrell, LG; Skinner, AC; Narayan, AP
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