While ADHD Diagnosis Rises, Treatment Patterns Fall Short

June 14, 2019

What else can you do to help your pediatric patients with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends both behavioral therapy and medication for children 6 years of age and older. For preschool children, 4 to 5 years old, the first line of treatment is behavioral therapy. If the response is not enough, medication may be added.1

A Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Blue Health Intelligence® (BHI) study titled, The Impact of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on the Health of America’s Children looked at claims data among children diagnosed with ADHD. The children were between the ages of two and 18 and covered by commercial health insurance. The findings showed a large gap between what the AAP recommends and actual practice. Of children diagnosed with ADHD in 2017:2

  • 27% received what the AAP recommends, both behavioral therapy and medication
  • 49% received only medication
  • 12% received only behavioral therapy

The study revealed trends that show the importance of diagnosis and proper treatment of ADHD:2

  • ADHD is one of the most common behavioral health conditions affecting kids in the U.S.
  • Diagnosis increased by 31% from 2010 to 2017 in children two to 18 years old
  • ADHD is considered the second-most impactful condition affecting children’s health in the U.S. It accounts for 16% of the impact of all health conditions on Generation Z (0-19 years old)
  • Four in 10 children with ADHD also have at least one other behavioral health condition, including:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Learning disorders
    • Disruptive behavioral disorders
    • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Rates of depression and anxiety increase in children with ADHD from preschool to middle school. The rates increase sharply in high school students. Rates of learning disorders, disruptive behavioral disorders and ASD are most common in preschool children with ADHD. The rates decrease sharply from preschool to elementary school and continue to decrease in high school kids.

What you can do to help your pediatric patients with ADHD:

  • Search for other common behavioral health conditions that may benefit from treatment
  • Consider adding either behavioral therapy or medication when appropriate

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment.

1AAP, ADHD: Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents, November 2011, https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/128/5/1007.full.pdf

2Heatlh of America Report, The Impact of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on the Health of America's Children, March 28, 2019, https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/impact-of-adhd-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-on-health-of-americas-children