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Steep Drop Seen in Medically Unnecessary C-Sections

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2014

A greater willingness by hospitals to not schedule early elective deliveries without documented medical necessity is a major reason for the drop cited in The Leapfrog Group's latest survey findings.

At long last, policy changes made by hospitals have resulted in plummeting numbers of women undergoing medically unnecessary C-sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy, according to the latest Leapfrog Group survey, released Monday.

In 2010, the first year the watchdog group conducted this survey, 793 hospitals reported rates of early elective deliveries that averaged 17%, although many were more than 50%.

For 2013, nearly 1,000 hospitals reported rates that averaged 4.6%, just below Leapfrog's target rate of 5%, and almost none over 50%. As of the 2013 report, 71% of hospitals reporting to Leapfrog fell below 5%, a sharp contrast to 46% of hospitals in 2012.

Leah Binder, President and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, called the reduction "very impressive.

"When you're advocating for change in healthcare, you get accustomed to seeing a very slow pace of change; and even 1% is a cause for celebration. So when we see over a four-year period this kind of massive shift in performance, it's extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it in my career," she says.

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