Lax, Y., Bathory, E., Braganza, S.
BACKGROUND: Early detection and management of poverty-related disorders is a recommended pediatric practice; however, little is known about variations of practice between pediatric primary care physicians and subspecialists. The objectives of this study were to assess (1) provider perceptions and attitudes toward caring for low-income children in an urban academic medical center, and (2) variations between primary care physicians and subspecialists in social and financial needs screening and referral practices for low-income children. DESIGN/METHODS: Primary care providers (pediatric and family medicine) and subspecialists providing direct patient care in an urban academic medical center (response rate = 24 %, n = 85/356) completed a 24-item survey (adapted with permission from the AAP Periodic Survey of Fellows No.90) assessing feasibility and comfort screening and addressing social and financial needs, rates of screening for financial hardship, and referrals to local resources. Chi-square tests were performed. RESULTS: Among respondents, 88 % (75/85) reported comfort caring for low-income children, while 28 % (24/85) reported comfort inquiring about social and financial needs and 34 % (29/85) referring to community resources. Primary care providers more commonly than subspecialists screened for childcare (80 % vs. 59 %, p = 0.04), parental: employment (84 % vs. 59 %, p = 0.01), education (40 % vs. 17 %, p = 0.02) and mental health (86 % vs. 46 %, p = 0.0001), and less commonly screened for transportation (47 % vs. 73 %, p = 0.01). Primary care providers more commonly referred for public health insurance (74 % vs. 39 %, p = 0.001), public food assistance (30 % vs. 12 %, p = 0.04), and adult mental health services (65 % vs. 44 %, p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: In an urban academic institution serving a population with high poverty rates, pediatric providers feel comfortable providing medical care for low-income children but lack comfort screening and addressing SDH. Though most feel it is their job to refer to resources, less than half felt it was feasible to screen for or address financial needs. Pediatric primary care providers report higher rates of screening and referring than subspecialists. Understanding variations in practice and perceptions among primary care providers and subspecialists may aid in creating interventions to increase screening and referral rates.