The first methodologic step needed to compare pediatric health outcomes at children’s hospitals (CHs) and non–children’s hospitals (NCHs) is to classify hospitals into CH and NCH categories. However, there are currently no standardized or validated methods for classifying hospitals. The purpose of this study was to describe a novel and reproducible hospital classification methodology.
By using data from the 2015 American Hospital Association survey, 4464 hospitals were classified into 4 categories (tiers A–D) on the basis of self-reported presence of pediatric services. Tier A included hospitals that only provided care to children. Tier B included hospitals that had key pediatric services, including pediatric emergency departments, PICUs, and NICUs. Tier C included hospitals that provided limited pediatric services. Tier D hospitals provided no key pediatric services. Classifications were then validated by using publicly available data on hospital membership in various pediatric programs as well as Health Care Cost Institute claims data.
Fifty-one hospitals were classified as tier A, 228 as tier B, 1721 as tier C, and 1728 as tier D. The majority of tier A hospitals were members of the Children’s Hospital Association, Children’s Oncology Group, and National Surgical Quality Improvement Program–Pediatric. By using claims data, the percentage of admissions that were pediatric was highest in tier A (88.9%), followed by tiers B (10.9%), C (3.9%), and D (3.9%).
Using American Hospital Association survey data is a feasible and valid method for classifying hospitals into CH and NCH categories by using a reproducible multitiered system.