While many hospitals provide some amount of pediatric care, children's hospitals are distinguished by their programming, support services, staff and facilities tailored specifically to serve the needs of kids. Of the hospitals in the U.S., only 2% are larger acute care children's hospitals, making them as one-of-a-kind as the patients they serve.
These characteristics, and the needs of children, drive hospital design and operational considerations that adult facilities don't need to account for to the same degree. Business, financing and philanthropic planning must ensure the reality of higher costs is recognized and accommodated in current and future redevelopment efforts. Higher costs translate to higher charges—prices to payers—and are non-comparable to the larger hospitals focused primarily on adults.
A new report examines the three areas where children's hospital facilities are different than their adult counterparts, which contributes to the cost differential:
Families are at the center of care efforts
Beyond the logistics and legal stewardship that families manage, pediatric patients need their family around them, and this requires more family-centered spaces across all patient care areas. These spaces include sleeping areas for parents, secured storage areas, loungers and laundry facilities.
There are often more visitors for each pediatric patient, which means children's hospitals require larger corridors and higher traffic flow capacity.
Children are in varying phases of their emotional, intellectual and physical development
Kids' developmental and social needs drive additional levels of specialization and programming in social, clinical and physical domains. Many children's hospitals require more square footage to organize care units based on patient development, such as medically fragile infants versus adolescents.
Children’s hospitals are equipped to care for a wide variety of populations. Thanks to advances in technology and treatment, pediatric providers are caring for a growing segment of adult-age patients with chronic and medically complex health conditions that develop in childhood, such as cystic fibrosis.
Pediatric care requires different materials and technology
The range in the physical size of kids requires specialized equipment and materials to accommodate them. Children’s hospitals often need higher-cost equipment and materials for patients that range in weight from 1 pound to adolescents who weigh more than 200 pounds—a significant variance compared to adult hospitals.
On the technology side, many electronic medical record systems are designed for adult care and require customization—at an additional cost. This is also true of all the digital information on infusion pumps, ventilators, digital monitoring and staffing systems across the hospital.