Christopher Dawes, the president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, describes why his institution is undergoing a $1.1 billion expansion, and how pediatrics is adapting to health care's transformation. Lucile Packard, while relatively young (it just celebrated its 25th anniversary), is readjusting its care models to handle a smaller yet more acute patient population.

Are pediatric hospitals in a drastically different position from the rest of the field?

What’s happening in health care with children is that just like in adult health care, you’re seeing more and more children being taken care of in the outpatient environment. So we’re certainly seeing substantial growth in that area. We’ve actually tripled our outpatient activity in the last four years. We’ve gone from about 160,000 visits in 2012 to [where] we’re seeing close to 600,000 visits.

What are the biggest challenges children’s hospitals face?

The good news is that we’re saving more and more kids, kids [who in the past] didn’t survive beyond one, two and three years, or not at all, are doing much better. Because of advances in medical science, we’re able to save more and more children, a process that is very intensive. What that’s also led to is that [more] children are growing up to be teenagers, with the vast majority growing into adulthood. But some of them still have chronic illnesses, so what we’re seeing is fewer overall patients, yet more patients who need intensive critical care and support, because of the various chronic illnesses that exist.

How do these issues factor into your $1.1 billion, 521,000-square-foot addition?

We’ve built the hospital specifically with that in mind. Of course, the new hospital has all the latest technologies, such as an interoperative MRI. We’ve tripled our diagnostic capabilities in the new hospital. We’re going from 44 to 72 ICU beds. We’re running at close to 100 percent occupancy right now. We’ve designed the hospital around the families. Every patient room has the capacity to sleep two parents, care providers or family members. We have extensive places for families to come together. We can create an environment that is conducive to maintaining families’ day-to-day life. There is a lot of research pointing to the fact that kids do better if they feel they’re still part of the family; and the families do better because they can continue to function.