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Study: Pediatric care quality varies by doctors' preferences

If you are a parent, you likely expect that when your child ends up in the doctor’s office or in the hospital that he or she will receive the care that he or she needs. Unacceptably, recent research indicates that this may not be the case. According to a report compiled by the Dartmouth Atlas Project, children often receive care in accordance with their physicians’ preferences as opposed to what kinds of care they may actually require.

This conclusion does not necessarily mean that children are always the subject of breaches in any given physician’s duty of care. On the contrary, physicians may prefer to treat patients in ways that ultimately benefit them. Unfortunately, doctors too often veer to extremes of not providing enough care or over-providing care to children. Both of these approaches may result in injury or exacerbated illness in these children. Some preferential choices may even rise to the level of medical malpractice.

As the report’s lead author explains, “While there are many examples of excellent care for children, the inconsistency in care across a relatively small geographic region raises troubling questions about whether medical practice patterns reflect the care that infants and children need and that their families want, or whether they are primarily the result of differences in physician and hospital practice styles.”

The Dartmouth study indicates that these variations in care apply to prescription medications, hospitalizations, imaging, general physician services and surgeries. As a result, parents should only place their trust in physicians with caution. Parents should question why their child needs or does not need any given kind of care. This is not a “pushy” or “overbearing” approach. This is advocating for your child and trusting that your physician might not be.

Source: Modern Healthcare, "Pediatric care varies due to doc preference, not patient need," Dartmouth report says, Andis Robeznieks, Dec. 11, 2013

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