Availability of pediatric inpatient services in the United States

Anna M. Cushing, Emily M. Bucholz, Alyna T. Chien, Daniel A. Rauch, Kenneth A. Michelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: We sought to evaluate trends in pediatric inpatient unit capacity and access and to abstrac measure pediatric inpatient unit closures across the United States. METHODS: We performed a retrospective study of 4720 US hospitals using the 2008–2018 American Hospital Association survey. We used linear regression to describe trends in pediatric inpatient unit and PICU capacity. We compared trends in pediatric inpatient days and bed counts by state. We examined changes in access to care by calculating distance to the nearest pediatric inpatient services by census block group. We analyzed hospital characteristics associated with pediatric inpatient unit closure in a survival model. RESULTS: Pediatric inpatient units decreased by 19.1% (34 units per year; 95% confidence interval [CI] 31 to 37), and pediatric inpatient unit beds decreased by 11.8% (407 beds per year; 95% CI 347 to 468). PICU beds increased by 16.0% (66.9 beds per year; 95% CI 53 to 81), primarily at children’s hospitals. Rural areas experienced steeper proportional declines in pediatric inpatient unit beds (-26.1% vs -10.0%). Most states experienced decreases in both pediatric inpatient unit beds (median state -18.5%) and pediatric inpatient days (median state -10.0%). Nearly one-quarter of US children experienced an increase in distance to their nearest pediatric inpatient unit. Low-volume pediatric units and those without an associated PICU were at highest risk of closing. CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric inpatient unit capacity is decreasing in the United States. Access to inpatient care is declining for many children, particularly those in rural areas. PICU beds are increasing, primarily at large children’s hospitals. Policy and surge planning improvements may be needed to mitigate the effects of these changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020041723
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


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