Hospital Discharges, by Primary Diagnosis

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Learn More About Hospitalizations

Measures of Hospitalizations on
On, data on hospitalizations reflect all hospital visits in which a child is admitted for care, excluding visits to the emergency room and visits for childbirth. A hospital admission occurs when a child's condition is serious enough that they require extended care (i.e., an overnight stay that includes tests, monitoring, and further observation), after which they are discharged.'s hospitalization measures present data on hospital discharges overall, the most common primary diagnoses for hospital stays, and sources of payment for services.
Characteristics of Children with Special Needs
Access to Services for Children with Special Needs
Children's Emotional Health
Insurance Coverage for Children with Special Health Care Needs
Impact of Special Health Care Needs on Children & Families
Quality of Care for Children with Special Health Care Needs
Health Care
Infant Mortality
Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Why This Topic Is Important
All children should have high-quality, accessible, and affordable health care, including hospital stays when needed. Children with special health care needs, in particular, may require more frequent hospitalizations and specialized, intensive medical care. Ensuring that all children have consistent access to affordable, evidence-based, well-coordinated, and family-centered care—all within the context of a “medical home”—can maximize positive outcomes (1, 2).

Hospitalization data on are based on hospital discharges. These data can be useful to illuminate trends in public safety and health and can inform injury prevention and disease surveillance (3). For example, asthma is one of the most common diagnoses for hospital stays among children, statewide and nationally (4). Research examining hospital discharge data has found that asthmatic children living in neighborhoods with high levels of overcrowding and poverty are more likely to be re-admitted for hospital care than those living in less-disadvantaged areas. Asthmatic children covered by Medicaid instead of private insurance also are more likely to be re-admitted for care (4).
For more information on hospitalizations, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. (2014). Medical home. In The health and well-being of children: A portrait of states and the nation, 2011-2012. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

2.  American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Children with Disabilities & Medical Home Implementation Project Advisory Committee. (2014). Patient- and family-centered care coordination: A framework for integrating care for children and youth across multiple systems. Pediatrics, 133(5), e1451-e1460. Retrieved from:

3.  Peters, A., et al. (2014). The value of all-payer claims databases to states. North Carolina Medical Journal, 75(3), 211-213. Retrieved from:

4.  Liu, S. Y., & Pearlman, D. N. (2009). Hospital readmission for childhood asthma: The role of individual and neighborhood factors. Public Health Reports, 124(1), 65-78. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
Nearly 234,000 California children under age 18 were discharged from hospitals in 2015, a decrease of about 20% from 2002. Among those discharged in 2015, 13% had a primary diagnosis of mental disease or disorder, followed by asthma/bronchitis (8%), pneumonia/pleurisy, and seizures/headaches (4%). Statewide, mental diseases and disorders have been the most common cause of childhood hospitalization since 2008.

Among California children discharged in 2015, Medi-Cal covered the hospitalization expenses for more than half (55%) of those visits, compared to about one-third (35%) for private insurance. Medicare, self-pay, workers compensation, programs for low-income children, other government programs, and other payers covered expenses for the remaining percentage. Since 2002, the percentage of visits with costs covered by private insurers has decreased, while the percentage with costs covered by Medi-Cal has increased.
Policy Implications
Hospital admissions and re-admissions can be reduced through effective care coordination and discharge planning, especially for children with special health care needs. Furthermore, detailed hospital discharge data can reveal the conditions and populations for which targeted care management and preventive services could have the greatest impact.

Policy options that could reduce hospital stays among children in general, and for the leading causes of hospitalization statewide—asthma and mental illness—include:
  • Reducing care fragmentation and inefficiency within and across health systems by establishing care coordination services that are patient- and family-centered, assessment-driven, team-based, and designed to meet the needs of children and youth while enhancing the caregiving capabilities of families (1)
  • Implementing a standardized, pediatric-specific framework for the transition from hospital to home care that begins at the time of admission, involves the entire care team, engages the child's family, acknowledges the family's circumstances at home, provides clear and comprehensive documentation, and follows up with the family after discharge (2)
  • Ensuring that all children have high-quality, accessible, and affordable health care to promote prevention and effective management of asthma, mental illness, and other special health care needs (3, 4)
  • Promoting community-wide, integrated interventions to decrease the burden of asthma on high-risk populations, such as children of color and low-income families, including strategies to improve health insurance coverage among the uninsured and under-insured, home visiting, education and outreach, and the reduction of asthma triggers in schools, child care centers, homes, and workplaces (3)
  • Adopting a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to mental health services for youth that expands and improves prevention, diagnosis, and early intervention services, while also promoting mental thriving and providing access to wellness supports for all children and families (4)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, visit's Research & Links section. Also see Policy Implications under Asthma, Health Care, and Children's Emotional Health.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Children with Disabilities and Medical Home Implementation Project Advisory Committee. (2014). Patient- and family-centered care coordination: A framework for integrating care for children and youth across multiple systems. Pediatrics, 133(5), e1451-e1460. Retrieved from:

2.  Berry, J. G., et al. (2014). A framework of pediatric hospital discharge care informed by legislation, research, and practice. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(10), 955-962. Retrieved from:

3.  Arnesen, C., et al. (2015). Strategic plan for asthma in California 2015-2019. California Department of Public Health. Retrieved from:

4.  Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation’s young people. Child Trends & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Hospitalizations