Kids with developmental delay are far more likely to receive the early intervention services they need if pediatricians follow up after conducting routine screenings, researchers say.

In a study of clinic patients at a large children’s hospital in Colorado, researchers found that simply performing regular developmental screenings was often not enough to ensure kids got help.

Even after implementing standardized screening procedures for doctors, just 20 percent of the children flagged as having possible delays were referred to community resources including early intervention.

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However, when the clinic began aggressively following up with phone calls in cases where children were found to have possible delays, referrals increased to 50 percent, the study found.

“With phone follow-up and ongoing use of the developmental screening template, providers were less likely to use the ‘wait and see’ approach and were more likely to make appropriate referrals,” researchers from the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital Colorado wrote in their findings published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers tracked the experiences of more than 3,000 kids. Ultimately, 86 percent were screened during a doctor’s visit, with 382 showing signs of possible developmental delay.

The increased referral rates were significant, researchers said. Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics call for all children to be evaluated for possible delays at 9, 18 and 30 months. Nonetheless, previous research indicates that many kids with developmental disabilities still fail to be identified and enrolled in intervention programs at young ages.