Ensuring timely connection to early intervention for young children with developmental delays

Kathleen Conroy*, Corinna Rea, Gabriella Ika Kovacikova, Eli Sprecher, Hannah Durant, Ellen Reisinger, Amy Starmer, Joanne Cox, Sara L. Toomey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Timely provision of developmental services can improve outcomes for children 0 to 3 years old with developmental delays. Early Intervention (EI) provides free developmental services to children under age 3 years; however, data suggests that many children referred to EI never connect to the program. We sought to ensure that 70% of patients referred to EI from an academic primary care clinic serving a low-income population were evaluated within 120 days of referral. METHODS: Recognizing that our baseline system of EI referrals had multiple routes to referral without an ability to track referral outcome, we implemented a multifaceted referral process with (1) a centralized electronic referral system used by providers, (2) patient navigators responsible for processing all EI referrals submitted by providers, and (3) a tracking system postreferral to facilitate identification of patients failing to connect with EI. RESULTS: The percentage of patients evaluated by EI within 120 days increased from a baseline median of 50% to a median of 72% after implementation of the systems (N = 309). After implementation, the centralized referral system was used a median of 90% of the time. Tracking of referral outcomes revealed decreases in families refusing evaluations and improvements in exchange of information with EI. CONCLUSIONS: Rates of connection to EI improved substantially when referrals were centralized in the clinic and patient navigators were responsible for tracking referral outcomes. Knowledge of EI intake processes and relationships between the practice and the EI site are essential to ensure successful connections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20174017
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Ensuring timely connection to early intervention for young children with developmental delays'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this