Vickroy: Oak Lawn’s Advocate Children’s Hospital among best in nation
By Donna Vickroy email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy June 26, 2013 7:56PM
Updated: July 30, 2013 6:41AM
Kids see the giant stuffed giraffes in the entryway. They see that oversized chair in the hallway that looks like it came from Gulliver’s house. And they see the walls of hand-painted tiles crafted by kids just like them.
As inviting as the aesthetics are, those are not the things that parents of sick children look for in a hospital, and they are not what makes Advocate Children’s Hospital special.
Way more important, enough to make the hospital a destination for families of sick children near and far, are the medical outcomes, the survival rates and the efforts taken to get those rates.
For the third consecutive year, Advocate Children’s Hospital has made the list of the nation’s 50 top pediatric hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013-14 “Best Children’s Hospitals” rankings. And for the second year in a row, the publication ranked the hospital among the top 50 in neonatology.
Barbara Perino, vice president and chief operating officer of the hospital, said credit lies with “our incredibly talented team that has been built over many years. We have a wonderful infrastructure in place that takes patients from diagnosis through care.”
Michael Farrell, the hospital’s president, said, “It’s a team sport. We look for people who make this their life mission, but who are conscious of interpersonal skills, too, so the fit is right. Once you have a team that gels together, it’s almost like a family.”
Talented people who can work together, he added, make a hospital successful.
Since 2007, U.S. News & World Report has been ranking the best children’s hospitals annually as a guide for parents whose children need care. The results will be published in an upcoming book.
Nearly 180 pediatric hospitals across the country were invited to participate in this year’s rankings, the criteria for which involved extensive surveying of the hospitals and doctors.
The magazine issued a clinical questionnaire to the hospitals and a survey of 150 pediatric specialists and subspecialists in each specialty area. The total of 1,500 physicians were asked where they would send the sickest children in their specialty, if location and cost were not a factor.
U.S. News & World Report said 87 children’s hospitals qualified for recognition as a “top 50” hospital in at least one of 10 specialty areas: cancer, cardiology/heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology/GI surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology/neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and urology.
Advocate ranked No. 36 in cardiology and heart surgery on the national list and
No. 4 in the Chicago area and in Illinois. Those findings were based mostly on clinical research, surgical survival and the hospital’s ability to prevent bloodstream infections.
Twenty-five percent of the score reflects how many of 450 pediatric cardiologists and heart surgeons surveyed in 2011, 2012 and 2013 recommended the hospital.
“There are few procedures that we cannot do here. We are in the process of expanding our program,” Farrell said.
The hospital recently began offering the new Berlin Heart assist device, which enables a patient to transition more easily from a bad heart to a transplant.
Farrell said many cardiac patients are surviving way beyond what was expected 15 years ago. An offshoot of that is that many patients continue to see their cardiac physicians into adulthood.
Advocate received extra points in the cardiology and heart surgery category for having an adult congenital heart program, a pediatric trauma center and designation by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization as a national Center of Excellence in Life Support.
The Oak Lawn hospital ranked No. 34 in neonatology nationwide and No. 4 in both Chicago and Illinois.
Criteria was based mostly on nurse staffing in neonatal intensive care units, ability to prevent bloodstream infections and patient volume. The other 25 percent reflects how many of the surveyed pediatric neonatologists recommended the hospital.
Farrell said a baby weighing one-half pound recently was born at the hospital.
“Can you imagine the skill set it takes to care for these babies?” he said.
Success depends greatly on doctors, nurses, respiratory care professionals and a host of specialists and subspecialists to come together to develop a plan of care, Perino said.
Though survival rates vary for each of the many diagnoses, she said, overall the numbers are very high. She pointed out that Advocate is among a few children’s hospitals in the U.S. that offer ECMO transport for critically ill heart/lung patients, enabling youngsters on a bypass machine to be transported to and from the hospital.
“We know we’re hitting it out of the ballpark with our parent surveys,” Perino said. “We’ve got teams of parents who fundraise for us, who are so grateful they want to give back.”
Evidence of that is attendance at the hospital’s annual picnic, which typically draws 1,200 to 1,500 people.
“We love to see the kids come back,” Perino said. “It connects us all to purpose.”
Connection is also the reason the hospital changed its name from Hope to Advocate recently, Farrell said.
“The challenge before was that we didn’t have recognition beyond the local market. Now that we are integrated with all the hospitals in the Advocate arena, we can represent our services to a broader audience,” Farrell said. “We’re constantly looking at how to improve. We consistently benchmark data with other institutions “
Though patients have been known to come from across the country and even from other countries, most of the hospital’s patients come from the Chicago area, he said.
“You never truly have a bad day. Every day you know you impacted the life of a child,” Perino said.