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Early Elective Delivery Still a Costly Health Risk

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 22, 2013

Some hospital obstetric units have reduced their rate of early elective deliveries between 37 and 39 weeks, according to the third annual report card from the Leapfrog Group, but the practice remains risky for both patients and babies.

While 75 hospitals curbed early deliveries between 2011 and 2012, some 54% of the 773 reporting hospitals still failed to meet the target of no more than 5% early elective births without medical necessity. "There's work that still must be done," said Leapfrog Group president Leah Binder.

The Leapfrog  Group, a 13-year old organization founded by employers who demanded better measures of quality for their healthcare premium dollars, added labor and delivery risk factors to its public reports three years ago.

That was because of emerging concerns that their employees' babies were being put at risk of long-term and expensive medical and developmental problems, with longer lengths of stay in costly neonatal units, whenever doctors and/or their patients demanded pre-term scheduled births. Leapfrog provides the only rating of this practice that scores each participating hospital. 

"Early elective deliveries represent a significant cost of healthcare, with one study estimating that nearly $1 billion could be saved annually in the U.S. if the rate were reduced" to 1.7%, Binder said during a media conference to announce the latest survey results from 2012.

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