Hospitals, doctors and mothers-to-be are getting the right message: Early elective deliveries are dangerous.

The Leapfrog Group recently shared the latest results from its campaign to publicly report whether hospitals meet standards for early elective deliveries. The good news is that the national average for early elective deliveries has fallen from 17 percent in 2010, when the campaign began, to 4.6 percent in 2013.

Positive Change in Wisconsin and Illinois

Elective deliveries occur when deliveries are scheduled at a specific time, rather than waiting until labor naturally begins. Labor may be started with an induction or the mother may have a cesarean or “C-section” procedure. These deliveries are considered “early” when they occur before 39 weeks.

Wisconsin and Illinois both made significant progress in reducing early elective deliveries. In Illinois, hospitals performed better than the national average.

Year National Average Wisconsin Illinois
2010 17.0% 16.4% 17.8%
2013 4.6% 7.9% 3.5%

A significant number of hospitals in each state attained a “fully meets standards” rating, which means they met or exceeded the Leapfrog target rate of 5.0 percent and they voluntarily supplied this data to Leapfrog.

Early Deliveries Increase Risks
According to materials shared by Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign, having an induction or a C-section delivery before 39 weeks increases the likelihood that the baby will:
  • Have breathing or feeding problems
  • Have severe jaundice
  • Require intensive care services
  • Have cerebral palsy, which can impact the ability to move, see, hear, think and learn.
  • In addition, mothers are more likely to suffer postpartum depression when they have an early elective delivery.

Learning About Your Local Hospital

Check Leapfrog’s list of hospitals to learn which hospitals participated and, if so, what rate they achieved. Leapfrog data is unavailable for Iowa, where hospitals choose not to participate in the survey.

The Alliance is a Regional Roll-Out Partner for Leapfrog in Wisconsin, but we also keep an eye on data for Illinois and Iowa because our network is used by employers who self-fund their health benefits in all three states.

Even if a hospital does not participate in the Leapfrog survey, you can still get access to their early elective delivery rate from Medicare’s HospitalCompare site.

  • Go to HospitalCompare and enter a zip code or the name of a specific hospital.
  • Select the desired hospital name and then select “timely and effective care.”
  • Scroll down to click on “pregnancy and delivery care,” which will give you that hospital’s early elective delivery rate.

Good News for Employers

Because early elective deliveries increase health risks for mothers and babies, they also increase costs for employers and other payers. So reducing the rate of early elective deliveries helps mothers and babies while reducing health care costs.

It also proves that public reporting can help change the marketplace. By educating patients and family members about what’s important and showing them how hospitals compare, public reporting rewards hospitals that are already meeting the standards and encourages others to follow suit.

Next, Leapfrog plans to focus attention on cesarean section rates at hospitals reporting at least 50 births annually. Those rates will be published beginning in 2015. Let’s hope that publicly sharing information about cesarean rates has the same positive results for mothers and infants.

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Amy Moyer

Amy Moyer

Amy Moyer was manager of value measurement for The Alliance. In her role, she managed and executed cost and quality measurement and reporting strategies for The Alliance and its members. She’s played a critical role in developing The Alliance’s QualityPath® initiative. She also participates in state and federal measurement initiatives. 
Prior to joining The Alliance, Amy served as the quality program administrator at Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation. She took on the role of project manager for the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) accreditation efforts as well as the development and reporting of key health plan quality metrics. Her resume also includes work at UW Health (University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics) where she served as a clinical content facilitator. 
Amy attended University of Wisconsin-Platteville where she received her Master of Science in project management and Lawrence University where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in music, neuroscience and biomedical ethics. 

Read more blog posts by Amy