OBJECTIVES:

High flow nasal cannula (HFNC) is increasingly used for children hospitalized with bronchiolitis. We aimed to validate identification of HFNC use in a national database, then compare resource utilization among children treated with and without HFNC.

METHODS:

In this cross-sectional, multicenter study, we obtained clinical and resource utilization data from the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) database for healthy children aged 1 to 24 months admitted for bronchiolitis. We assessed HFNC use based on a combination of billing codes and reviewed charts at 2 hospitals to determine their accuracy. We compared costs, length of stay, and readmissions between the HFNC and no HFNC groups at hospitals utilizing the HFNC codes.

RESULTS:

The PHIS codes demonstrated 90.4% sensitivity and 99.3% specificity to detect HFNC use as verified by chart review at 2 hospitals. However, only 24 of 51 PHIS hospitals used these codes for ≥1% of patients with bronchiolitis. Within those hospitals, children treated with HFNC had greater total costs ($7054 vs $4544; P < .001), greater daily costs ($2922 vs $2613; P < .001), and longer length of stay (57.6 vs 41.6 hours; P < .001). Those treated with HFNC were less likely to be readmitted at 3 and 7 days (P < .001), but by 14 days, readmissions were similar in the 2 groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

Billing codes for HFNC are inconsistently applied across PHIS hospitals; however, among those hospitals that routinely apply these codes, HFNC was associated with more intense resource utilization. Standardization of billing practices for HFNC would allow future study to more broadly describe the value of HFNC.

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