Education

University of Iowa Children's Hospital makes gains in national rankings

Two specialties re-emerge among Top 50 after falling off last year

University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — More than two years after opening a state-of-the-art, $392.7 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the University of Iowa is starting to see gains in national rankings — after slipping last year.

This week’s new U.S. News & World Report tally of best facilities for 10 pediatric specialties puts the UI Children’s Hospital among the nation’s top 50 in six areas — which is up from four last year but still below the eight it achieved in 2016 and the nine of 2015.

Of the six specialties for which the UI Children’s Hospital earned top 50 placement in the 2019-2020 report made public Tuesday, four improved over last year and three achieved their highest ranking since at least 2015 — including Iowa’s best placed neonatology unit, which surged 33 spots to No. 16.

UI had touted neonatology — the care of fragile newborns based on things like patient volume, infection rates, and family support services — among its best for years, with rankings hovering in the 20s until tumbling to No. 46 last year.

The UI Children’s Hospital also saw its best ranking since at least 2015 in the categories of pediatric diabetes and endocrinology, which reached No. 21 after dropping out of the top 50 last year and in 2017; and pediatric orthopedics, which climbed from No. 46 last year to No. 29.

The UI Children’s Hospital lost ground in two specialties. Its pediatric cancer care placement slipped from No. 36 to No. 46, continuing its slide from No. 27 in 2016. Its pediatric nephrology unit tied for No. 39, down from No. 28 and the lowest it’s been since at least 2015.

UI on the new list remained unranked in the pediatric cardiology, pulmonology, and neurology and neurosurgery specialties — which touted Iowa among the elite 50 in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

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The annual rankings — which take into account outcomes like survival, infections, and complications, along with reputation and commitment to safety and excellence — are popular among families shopping for the best care for a sick child.

“The rankings, coupled with guidance from pediatricians, help families make better-informed decisions about where to find high-quality, compassionate care for their children when they need it most,” according to Ben Harder, U.S. News managing editor and chief of health analysis.

UI administrators — including those overseeing UI Health Care — often tout their U.S. News rankings or stress the import of improving them. Scott Turner, former UI Children’s Hospital chief executive before leaving last year to become executive vice president of the Children’s Hospital and Health System in Wisconsin, said previously he expected Iowa’s new 14-story Children’s Hospital, which opened in February 2017, would improve future rankings.

Although last year’s rankings took a hit, they were based on data compiled between July 2016 and June 2017 — meaning the new hospital had only been open a few months.

Amy O’Deen, interim executive director of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said this year’s honors reflect “the outstanding care and service provided by our dedicated team.”

“We are proud of our team and grateful to the thousands of families who trust us to expertly care for their children each year.”

The university has not yet launched a search for a permanent Children’s Hospital top executive, according to UIHC spokeswoman Molly Rossiter. Administrators last year said they wanted to wait until hiring a new UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO.

Suresh Gunasekaran began in that role in November, but Rossiter said UIHC has nothing new to report regarding a new Children’s Hospital CEO.

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In 13 years of U.S. News children’s hospital rankings, the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital has been ranked for 10 straight. It’s the only nationally-ranked children’s hospital in Iowa, as Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines — the pediatric hospital of UnityPoint Health — is not nationally ranked in any specialty.

In addition to rating facilities by specialty, U.S. News annually produces an “honor roll” for the top 10 children’s hospitals nationally that ranked well in many specialties.

This year’s top hospital was Boston Children’s Hospital, which ranked in the top 5 in all 10 specialties — earning No. 1 rankings in five areas and No. 2 placement in two.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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