Pediatric ID specialists are viewed by administrators and other physicians as valuable contributors to the delivery of high quality medical care, according to a new study published in Hospital Pediatrics. Their contributions in many areas, however, can be difficult to measure, which may lead administrators to overlook their value and under-allocate resources, the findings suggest.

The study, which was supported by PIDS, sought to identify perceptions that clinical and administrative stakeholders working in hospitals that provide pediatric care have about the value of pediatric ID physicians. Ninety-seven physicians and administrators from five hospitals in different regions of the U.S. were included. Analysis of open-ended, qualitative interviews revealed numerous ways in which pediatric ID specialists are thought to provide value.

Pediatric ID specialists’ perceived contributions to quality care included the effective treatment of patients with unusual infections or those that respond poorly to initial treatment, the optimization of antimicrobial use, and the ability to serve as outpatient homes for complex patients. Interview respondents also indicated that these specialists provide value by facilitating communication with patients, families, and other specialties. Additional perceived contributions included important system- or hospital-wide activities, such as antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention.

Much of this valuable work, however, is not easily reimbursed by payers or captured by current metrics for physicians’ labor. This uncertainty caused some administrative respondents in the study to question how many pediatric ID specialists and related resources are needed to achieve high quality care, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs, the study authors found.

The findings build on previous research investigating the value of cognitive specialties that has largely focused on clinical outcomes, such as mortality, readmissions, length of stay, or cost. The study adds to the understanding of how the pediatric ID specialty, in particular, is perceived and is part of PIDS’ ongoing efforts to demonstrate the value of the specialty to the health care system. The study’s lead author is Julia E. Szymczak, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and other authors include several PIDS leaders.