BACKGROUND: There has been little systematic examination of variation in pediatric burn care clinical practices and its effect on outcomes. As a first step, current clinical care processes need to be operationally defined. The highly specialized burn care units of the Shriners Hospitals for Children system present an opportunity to describe the processes of care. The aim of this study was to develop a set of process-based measures for pediatric burn care and examine adherence to them by providers in a cohort of pediatric burn patients.
METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review to compile a set of process-based indicators. These measures were refined by an expert panel of burn care providers, yielding 36 process-based indicators in four clinical areas: initial evaluation and resuscitation, acute excisional surgery and critical care, psychosocial and pain control, and reconstruction and aftercare. We assessed variability in adherence to the indicators in a cohort of 1,076 children with burns at four regional pediatric burn programs in the Shriners Hospital system. The percentages of the cohort at each of the four sites were as follows: Boston, 20.8%; Cincinnati, 21.1%; Galveston, 36.0%; and Sacramento, 22.1%. The cohort included children who received care between 2006 and 2010.
RESULTS: Adherence to the process indicators varied both across sites and by clinical area. Adherence was lowest for the clinical areas of acute excisional surgery and critical care, with a range of 35% to 48% across sites, followed by initial evaluation and resuscitation (range, 34%-60%). In contrast, the clinical areas of psychosocial and pain control and reconstruction and aftercare had relatively high adherence across sites, with ranges of 62% to 93% and 71% to 87%, respectively. Of the 36 process indicators, 89% differed significantly in adherence between clinical sites (p < 0.05). Acute excisional surgery and critical care exhibited the most variability.
CONCLUSION: The development of this set of process-based measures represents an important step in the assessment of clinical practice in pediatric burn care. Substantial variation was observed in practices of pediatric burn care. However, further research is needed to link these process-based measures to clinical outcomes.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic/care management, level IV.