Health Policy

Area of Research

Populations with Special Health Care Needs (SHCN)

Most studies at the PPC include a component for a special needs population. Special needs populations, by definition, require more health care services and/or specialized health care services than other people. There is no one assessment of special health care needs (SHCN) that fits all situations.

SHCN research at the Public Policy Center may be about a special needs population generally, such as foster children, or it focus on a particular population, such as those defined as mentally retarded/developmentally disabled (MRDD).

The greater need for health care services among these populations is generally more costly to the system (especially if care is not managed appropriately. Members with SHCN may also have unique challenges in accessing care, and are often overlooked with the context of broader programs such as Medicaid. The assessment of what constitutes a special needs population is defined at the start of a study and may also be defined by a special section within a survey instrument or a protocol for case finding within the claims data.

Survey instruments to assess special needs are many and varied and have been developed primarily for use with children. Case finding protocols are few. Within the PPC, experts are identified to help define the case finding protocols appropriate to the population of interest. This research is able to identify and define the health needs and utilization of many different subgroups. Research involving people with special health care needs, especially children, heightens the awareness of policymakers to the needs they have and the challenges they face within the health care system.