BACKGROUND: Pediatric acute care utilization decreased dramatically during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This study examined the association between the Child Opportunity Index (COI), a multidimensional neighborhood measure of childhood opportunity, and changes in acute care utilization at US pediatric hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the previous 3 years. METHODS: This observational study used administrative data across 41 US-based pediatric hospitals. Children aged 0 to 17 years with emergency department (ED) encounters during the study period were included. The COVID-19 pandemic time period (March 15, 2020-March 14, 2021) was the primary exposure. The primary outcome was the relative volume drop in ED encounters and observation/inpatient admissions through the ED by COI quintile. RESULTS: Of 12 138 750 encounters, 3 705 320 (30.5%) were among the very low COI quintile. Overall, there was a 46.8% relative volume reduction in the pandemic period compared with the prepandmic period. This drop in volume occurred disproportionately among the very low COI quintile (51.1%) compared with the very high COI quintile (42.8%). The majority of clinical diagnosis groups demonstrated larger relative volume drops among the very low COI quintile. CONCLUSIONS: Acute care utilization decreased the most among children from very low COI neighborhoods, narrowing previously described acute care utilization disparities. Additional study of patient perspectives on health care needs and access during this period is required to understand these changes.
|State||Published - May 1 2022|