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Kids' Screenings in Place, But Referrals Lacking

Doctors urged to follow up on testing for suspected developmental delays

THURSDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Although U.S. pediatricians are doing a good job of screening children for developmental delays, many fail to refer these patients to testing or treatment, researchers say.

"The ultimate goal of screening is to improve outcomes for children with developmental delays, but in our study we found that many pediatricians did not act properly even when serious red flags were present," study lead researcher Dr. Tracy King, of Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in a news release. "This is where we should focus our efforts: making sure that more children with suspected delays get referred for testing and therapy."

The study authors suggested that pediatricians should have procedures in place to screen children for developmental delays and provide referrals if needed. And it is better if pediatricians make the referrals themselves instead of leaving it up to families to do so, according to the report published online Jan. 25 in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines recommend routine developmental screening and testing of children under the age of 3 during well-child visits.

In the study, procedures at 17 pediatric offices in 15 states were examined. While the percentage of patients screened rose from 68 percent to 85 percent following AAP guideline training of physicians and staff, the number of referrals was low at just 61 percent.

King noted that it is crucial to get prompt treatment for developmentally delayed children because those who don't get it fare poorly in the long run.

More information

The University of Michigan Health System has more on developmental delays in children.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Children's Center, news release, Jan. 25, 2010

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