Best Children's Hospitals 2013-14: Progress Report

The number of hospitals reporting clinical data for the next rankings took a big jump.

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To produce the medical data for the 2012-13 Best Children's Hospitals rankings, which are currently posted, U.S. News contractor RTI International sent a clinical survey to 178 pediatric centers. Ninety-seven centers, or 54.5 percent, completed the lengthy, detailed questionnaire. The allotted time for submitting the 2013-14 survey has now ended, and we are pleased to report that 109 of the 179 hospitals that received the survey responded, a jump to 60.9 percent.

The 11-part clinical survey takes the form of a general section and 10 individual specialty sections, from cancer to urology. Hospitals must complete the general section and at least one specialty section to be evaluated, because the information yielded by the clinical survey provides most of the grist for the Best Children's Hospitals rankings. A small part of each hospital's score is based on a reputational survey of 1,500 pediatric specialists, also conducted by RTI on behalf of U.S. News. That survey is still in the field, so we don't yet have final numbers on the response rate.

Staff members at children's hospitals spend many hours completing the clinical survey, and we thank them for their diligence and attention to the smallest detail. In addition, groups of experts in each of the 10 pediatric specialties plus a group specializing in infection control devote much time and effort each year to helping us update and sharpen the survey questions so that the resulting data are maximally informative. An Editorial Review Board of three respected authorities in pediatric quality and safety provides invaluable ongoing perspective, and the support of the Children's Hospital Association, the Alexandria, Va.-based representative of the nation's pediatric facilities, has encouraged hospitals to be receptive to the survey.

Without the thoughtful participation of these healthcare professionals, the Best Children's Hospitals rankings would be far less robust and helpful.

The increase in the clinical survey response rate this year is good news for parents and others who find themselves needing to check the upcoming rankings, which are scheduled to appear in mid-June. The more complete the pediatric hospital universe that is evaluated, the more accurate and meaningful the evaluation.