Background Tobacco smoke exposure (TSE) places an economic toll on the U.S. healthcare system. There is a gap in the literature on pediatric emergency department (ED) and urgent care related healthcare costs and utilization specific to tobacco smoke-exposed patients. The objectives were to assess pediatric ED visits, urgent care visits and hospital admissions longitudinally, and baseline visit costs among tobacco smoke-exposed children (TSE group) relative to unexposed children (non-TSE group). Methods and findings We conducted a retrospective study using electronic medical records of 380 children ages 0-17 years in the TSE group compared to 1,140 in the non-TSE group propensity score matched via nearest neighbor search by child age, sex, race, and ethnicity. Linear and Poisson regression models were used. Overall, children had a mean of 0.19 (SE = 0.01) repeat visits within 30-days, and 0.69 (SE = 0.04) pediatric ED visits and 0.87 (SE = 0.03) urgent care visits over 12-months following their baseline visit. The percent of children with = 1 urgent care visit was higher among the TSE group (52.4%) than the non-TSE group (45.1%, p = 0.01). Children in the TSE group (M = $1,136.97, SE = 76.44) had higher baseline pediatric ED visit costs than the non-TSE group (M = $1,018.96, SE = 125.51, p = 0.01). Overall, children had 0.08 (SE = 0.01) hospital admissions over 12-months, and the TSE group (M = 0.12, SE = 0.02) had higher mean admissions than the non-TSE group (M = 0.06, SE = 0.01, p = 0.02). The child TSE group was at 1.85 times increased risk of having hospital admissions (95% CI = 1.23, 2.79, p = 0.003) than the non-TSE group. Conclusions Tobacco smoke-exposed children had higher urgent care utilization and hospital admissions over 12-months, and higher pediatric ED costs at baseline. Pediatric ED visits, urgent care visits, and hospitalizations may be opportune times for initiating tobacco control interventions, which may result in reductions of preventable acute care visits.
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