WASHINGTON – A bundled intervention combining point-of-care testing, electronic medical record support, and provider education significantly improved lipid screening rates in children aged 9-11 years, according to data from approximately 100 monthly visits over a 3-year period.
Guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute currently recommend universal lipid screening for children aged 9-11 years, but screening rates in clinical practice remain low, according to Ruth E. Gardner, MD, of Penn State University, Hershey, and colleagues.
In a poster presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, Dr. Gardner and colleagues shared results of the implementation of a bundled testing protocol designed to improve screening.
The researchers reviewed data on lipid testing within 30 days for all 9- to 11-year-old well child visits at a single center between May 2019 and February 2022. The bundled intervention was introduced in May 2021.
The bundled protocol included in-office capillary testing and provider education. In addition, electronic medical record templates were modified to include prompts for lipid screening at relevant ages, and EMR orders were adjusted to include lipid testing. The researchers also collected targeted provider feedback on individualized screening rates in February 2022.
Screening rates were plotted monthly. For the period from May 2019 through May 2021, the rates averaged 6.5%. However, after the introduction of the bundled intervention, the rate increased to 29.9%. Following targeted provider feedback in February 2022, the researchers found an additional shift to 52.1% through March and April 2022.
The findings were limited by the use of data from a single center, and the researchers used an extended study period to account for disruptions to well-child care in the spring of 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the results support the effectiveness of a bundled intervention for improving lipid screening rates in children aged 9-11 years, the researchers said, and targeted provider feedback and education could yield additional improvements, they concluded.
Preteen years are an optimal time for screening
“The current study is important because atherosclerosis begins in childhood, and screening at ages 9-11 is an optimal time to begin lifestyle changes to improve overall health and reduce risks of heart disease,” said Margaret Thew, DNP, FNP-BC, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, in an interview.
Ms. Thew, who was not involved in the study, said, “The number of recommended and required screening items needed in pediatrics is vast, so many providers have to select which items to focus on for their health screenings with these ages.”
Overall, “I was impressed with the improvements that were made in this quality improvement study,” said Ms. Thew.
Barriers to lipid screening in this population include the reduced number of health screenings and immunizations recommended for this age group; the consequence is that access is limited to discuss preventive care opportunities, said Ms. Thew in an interview. Steps to overcome these barriers could include the use of many of the screening tools introduced in the current study, such as point-of-care testing in the office, use of the EMR to remind providers of testing, which can be done during well visits or school physicals, and educating providers about the current guidelines, she noted.
Other strategies to increase screening include moving the immunization series to provide more frequent appointments to children aged 9-11 years to offer education and preventive care, Ms. Thew added.
The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. Ms. Thew had no financial conflicts to disclose and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Pediatric News.