U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Well-Child Care

Improving Infant Well-Child Visits

High-quality well-child visits can improve children’s health, support caregivers’ behaviors to promote their children’s health, and prevent injury and harm. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Bright Futures recommend nine well-care visits by the time children turn 15 months of age. These visits should include a family-centered health history, physical examination, immunizations, vision and hearing screening, developmental and behavioral assessment, an oral health risk assessment, a social assessment, maternal depression screening, parenting education on a wide range of topics, and care coordination as needed.i When children receive the recommended number of high-quality visits, they are more likely to be up-to-date on immunizations, have developmental concerns recognized early, and are less likely to visit the emergency department.ii,iii,iv,v,vi,vii However, many infants do not receive the recommended number of infant well-child visits. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers quality improvement (QI) technical assistance (TA) to help states increase the attendance and quality of well-child visits for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries ages 0 to 15 months.

  1. QI TA resources, to help state Medicaid and CHIP staff and their QI partners get started improving the use of infant well-child visits for their beneficiaries

  2. Improving Infant Well-Child Visit learning collaborative resources, to share different approaches to improving well-child visit care and state examples

For more information on these materials and other QI TA, please email MedicaidCHIPQI@cms.hhs.gov.

QI TA Resources

These resources can help states get started in developing their own infant well-child QI projects:

  • Getting Started on Quality Improvement Video. This video provides an overview of how Medicaid and CHIP agencies can start a QI project to improve the use of infant well-child visits. The Model for Improvement begins with small tests of change, enabling state teams to “learn their way” toward strong programs and policies.

  • Driver Diagram and Change Idea Table. A driver diagram is a visual display of what “drives” or contributes to improvements in infant well-child visits. This example of a driver diagram shows the relationship between the primary drivers (the high-level elements, processes, structures, or norms in the system that must change to use and quality of infant well-child visits) and the secondary drivers (the places, steps in a process, time-bound moments, or norms in which changes are made to spur improvement). The document also includes change idea tables, which contain examples of evidence-based or evidence-informed QI interventions to improve the use of infant well-child care. The change ideas were tailored for Medicaid and CHIP.

  • Measurement Strategy. This document provides examples of measures that can be used to monitor infant well-child care QI projects.

Improving Infant Well-Child Visits: Learning Collaborative Resources

Beginning in 2021, CMS facilitated the two year Infant Well-Child Visit learning collaborative to support state Medicaid and CHIP agencies’ efforts to improve the use of infant well-child visits from 0-15 months of age. The learning collaborative included a webinar series and an affinity group to support state Medicaid and agencies’ quality improvement efforts. The webinars, listed and linked to below, described approaches that states can use to improve attendance and quality of infant well-child visits.

California, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia participated in the action-oriented affinity group where teams designed and implemented an infant well-child quality improvement (QI) project in their state with tailored TA from CMS. Learnings from participating states can be found in the state highlights brief.

Learning Collaborative Webinar Series

  • State Spotlights Webinar on Improving Infant-Well Child Care (Video) (Transcript). This 2024 webinar spotlighted several state QI projects from the affinity group, highlighting their strategies, partnerships, and lessons learned.

  • Using Payment, Policy and Partnerships to Improve Infant Well-Child Care (Audio)(Transcript). This August 2021 webinar focused on Medicaid and CHIP payment incentives, managed care contracts, and other strategies that can increase the use and quality of infant well-child visits and advance equity. Speakers from the CMS and Mathematica introduced CMS’ Maternal and Infant Health Initiative and shared the importance of high-quality well-child visits and the opportunities within Medicaid and CHIP to impact infant health. Speakers from Pennsylvania and Texas’ Medicaid and CHIP agencies described their efforts to expand and incentivize participation in infant well-child visits, such as through value-based purchasing, performance improvement projects, CHIP Health Services Initiatives (HSIs), and partnerships with aligned service providers like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). State presenters offered insights into ways to incentivize efforts to close gaps in care, engage families, and improve performance on quality measures. During the Q&A session, presenters discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on well-child care, the potential of using telehealth or hybrid visits to increase access, and incentives for managed care entities, and addressing the social determinants of health in value-based payment strategies.

  •  Improving Quality and Utilization of Infant Well-Child Visits (Audio)(Transcript). This September 2021 webinar focused on the characteristics of a high-performing system of well-child health care. CMS and Mathematica presenters shared the Maternal and Infant Health Initiative’s Theory of Change. Speakers from Washington and Arkansas Medicaid and CHIP agencies discussed how their states have achieved high rates of participation in infant well-child visits and how they use data to monitor performance and disparities and ensure access to services. Washington shared insights on leveraging collaborative performance improvement projects to identify and address barriers to care. Arkansas discussed the state’s per member per month incentives for performance and minimum performance measures for infant well-child visit rates. During the Q&A session, presenters highlighted efforts to improve health equity, engage parents and providers, and leverage performance measures and quality tools to improve attendance at infant well-child visits.

  • Models of Care that Drive Improvement in Infant Well-Child Visits (Audio)(Transcript). In this September 2021 webinar, three states—Oregon, Michigan, and North Carolina—shared approaches to designing and implementing models of care associated with improved infant well-child visit participation, including patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) and home visiting. States offered insights on the importance of strategic alignment of policies, processes, and partnerships. Oregon discussed its home visiting program and quality incentive strategy for its coordinated care organizations. The state incentivizes progress on the HEDIS measures and other measures designed by the state’s Pediatric Improvement Partnership, including a measure of social-emotional health service capacity and access for infants and children. Michigan discussed how they requires MCOs to identify and publish disparities in well-child visit rates and how they encourage plans to reduce disparities. The state also uses an algorithm that automatically assigns members to MCOs based on MCOs’ performance and reimburses for maternal-infant health home visiting. North Carolina shared its Keeping Kids Well program, which aims to increase well-child visit and immunization rates and reduce disparities in those rates. The program offers coaches to practices to support their improvements, established an advisory board of key interested parties, and provides customized vaccination notices for practices to distribute to beneficiaries, in partnership with health systems and pharmaceutical companies. The state also used the Healthy Opportunities payment to incentivize the identification and redress of health-related social needs and provided the Health Equity Payment to providers serving areas with high poverty rates. 

i 3 Hagan, J.F., J.S. Shaw, and P.M. Duncan (eds.). Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. 4th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017.

ii Gill, J.M., A. Saldarriaga, A.G. Mainous, and D. Unger. “Does Continuity Between Prenatal and Well-Child Care Improve Childhood Immunizations?” Family Medicine, vol. 34, no. 4, April 2002, pp. 274–280.

iii Buchholz, M., and A. Talmi. “What We Talked About at the Pediatrician’s Office: Exploring Differences Between Healthy Steps and Traditional Pediatric Primary Care Visits.” Infant Mental Health Journal, vol. 33, no. 4, 2012, pp. 430–436.

iv DeVoe, J.E., M. Hoopes, C.A. Nelson, et al. “Electronic Health Record Tools to Assist with Children’s Insurance Coverage: A Mixed Methods Study.” BMC Health Services Research, vol.18, no. 1, May 2018, p. 354–360.

v Coker, T.R., S. Chacon, M.N. Elliott, et al. “A Parent Coach Model for Well-Child Care Among Low-Income Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pediatrics, vol. 137, no. 3, March 2016, p. e20153013.

vi Flores, G., H. Lin, C. Walker, M. Lee, J. Currie, R. Allgeyer, M. Fierro, M. Henry, A. Portillo, and K. Massey. “Parent Mentoring Program Increases Coverage Rates for Uninsured Latino Children.” Health Affairs, vol. 37, no. 3, 2018, pp. 403–412.

vii Hakim, R.B., and D.S. Ronsaville. “Effect of Compliance with Health Supervision Guidelines Among US Infants on Emergency Department Visits.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, vol. 156, no. 10, October 2002, pp. 1015–1020.