Medical Complexity Leads to Unmet Needs, Study Finds

By Spencer Watson

“Among the children with medical complexity, unmet need was not associated with primary language, income level, or having Medicaid,” wrote Kuo and second author Anthony Goudie, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at UAMS. “We concluded that medical complexity itself can be a primary determinant of unmet needs.”

The paper, entitled Inequities in Health Care Needs for Children with Medical Complexity, is being presented today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It appears in Health Affairs’ December issue focusing on children’s health.

Based on a secondary analysis of data from the 2005–06 and 2009–10 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, the inequities the paper examined were those based on race or ethnicity, primary language in the household, insurance type and poverty status. The paper compares inequities of children with special needs to those of children with special needs who also have medical complexity. The results indicate children with medical complexity are more than twice as likely to have at least one unmet need compared to children with special needs without medical complexity.

An abstract of the paper can be viewed online. Copies of the entire study are available to members of the media upon request.

Kuo is also a co-author of the paper Children with Medical Complexity and Medicaid: Spending and Cost Savings, which was also accepted by Health Affairs and is also being presented at the National Press Club. Its primary author is Jay Berry, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Kuo’s research has been supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute as a KL2 Mentored Career Development Award recipient, which provided him with two years of salary support, research funding and training.   

ACHRI provides a research environment on the ACH campus to meet the needs of the UAMS faculty.  Research scientists at ACHRI conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses, preventing disease and improving the health of children everywhere. 

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 95 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research – all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children’s health and development. For more information, visit

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state's Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — COPD, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and four dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.