How many families do you know with children who have been admitted to the hospital? Plenty of kids visit the ER for the usual things—like ear infections and bumps and bruises (and maybe a broken bone). But that's as close as most children get after they're born to seeing the inside of a hospital, now that tonsillectomies are no longer routine.
Still, there's always that "what if." Even if they're a small percentage of the total, a large number of children every year do need hospital care. What do you do if you're a parent of a child who is very sick or has an ongoing condition—say, diabetes or a heart defect—that needs care a big step up from the usual? Fewer than 3 percent of the roughly 5,000 U.S. hospitals have deep expertise in caring for children with serious problems.
Your child's pediatrician is your first source of guidance, of course. And U.S.News & World Report's annual rankings of the best pediatric facilities in the United States can help you compare institutions. This year, the number of specialties covered in America's Best Children's Hospitals has been raised from six to 10. The top 30 children's hospitals are ranked in cancer, diabetes and endocrine disorders, digestive disorders, heart and heart surgery, kidney disorders, neonatal care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, respiratory disorders, and urology.
Ranked hospitals were judged based on a combination of opinions from pediatric specialists about the hospitals they would recommend for a sick child and data gathered in a 65-page survey as meticulous as a CT scan. The survey covers everything from surgical death rates and the use of specific infection-preventing strategies to research activity and whether pediatric anesthesiologists and other subspecialists are on the staff. No, this isn't information that necessarily matters a lot when nothing serious is wrong. But when the stakes are high, every shred may be meaningful.
A small number of children's hospitals—10 out of the 160 surveyed and 98 that responded—were ranked in all 10 specialties. This unusually capable group, listed alphabetically below, constitutes the Honor Roll. It is the first appearance of a pediatric counterpart to the Honor Roll in the Best Hospitals rankings.
[See America's Best Children's Hospitals and search for one near you.]