Over many decades, the stellar reputation of Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt allowed it to corner the central Tennessee market for specialty services for children with highly complex healthcare needs.
But three years ago, its Nashville neighbor, TriStar Centennial Women's and Children's Hospital, began making its own push to expand its pediatric service offerings. The HCA -owned facility opened a new pediatric intensive-care unit and started recruiting pediatric specialists. It introduced Kids Express, an outpatient concierge-style service center providing respiratory and intravenous therapy as well as laboratory and imaging services.
The intensified competition has pushed both organizations to launch dueling marketing campaigns in places such as day-care centers and preschools across the region.
Vanderbilt isn't alone among children's hospitals in facing heightened competition in the pediatric-care market. “We're seeing a number of regional systems that want to build their pediatric capabilities even in areas where there's an established children's hospital,” said Mark Grube, managing director at consulting firm Kaufman Hall. “They want to keep more services in-network.”
In the past, most general hospital systems didn't have enough patient volume to support the large number of pediatric subspecialties required to offer a comprehensive service line. But megamergers are changing the landscape. “The system formation work that's going on is supporting the development of pediatric programs,” Grube said.
In suburban Chicago, Alexian Brothers Health System last year signed a letter of intent to form a pediatric partnership with Loyola University Health System. The alliance will allow both systems to share hard-to-find pediatric subspecialists and treat some of the patients who might have otherwise traveled downtown to Lurie Children's Hospital, which is affiliated with Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.