OBJECTIVES. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness and costs of incorporating a parent-completed developmental screening tool, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, into the 12- and 24-month well-child visits under “real-world” conditions, using a combined in-office and mail-back data collection protocol.
METHODS. A convenience sample of 1428 caregivers and children presenting for their 12- or 24-month well-child visit between April 2005 and March 2006 participated. Children with identified delays or disorders were excluded. Board-certified pediatricians (n = 18) and nurse practitioners (n = 2) acted as secondary participants. Pediatricians were blinded to Ages and Stages Questionnaire results when completing the Pediatric Developmental Impression. Patients with delayed Ages and Stages Questionnaire or Pediatric Developmental Impression results were referred for additional evaluation.
RESULTS. Referral rates increased by 224%. Pediatrician referral on the basis of the Pediatric Developmental Impression was predicted significantly by suspected communication delay and gross motor delay. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire and Pediatric Developmental Impression results differed significantly, with overall agreement of 81.8%. Of Ages and Stages Questionnaire–delayed cases, 67.5% were not detected by pediatricians. Of the 78 patients referred on the basis of combined Ages and Stages Questionnaire and Pediatric Developmental Impression results, 53 would not have been referred on the basis of Pediatric Developmental Impression results alone; 37 patients qualified for special services, and 44 were scheduled for additional developmental monitoring. The rate of Ages and Stages Questionnaire return by caregivers/parents was 54%.
CONCLUSIONS. Referral rates increased dramatically, with the greatest increase at 12 months. Although patients with pediatrician referrals were likely to qualify for services (96%), physician referrals accounted for only 42% of total referrals, which highlights the need for pediatric developmental screening. The 54% Ages and Stages Questionnaire return rate, although acceptable under study conditions, calls for alternative implementation strategies.