For improving the health of babies by stopping early elective deliveries, Women’s Services and Children’s Hospital at the University of Virginia have earned a prestigious award from the March of Dimes and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA).
Extensive research has shown that babies born after at least 39 weeks of gestation – which is now considered “full term” – are healthier than babies born sooner, said Vanessa Gregg, MD, FACOG , a UVA obstetrician. For example, babies born at or after 39 weeks:
Have better developed organs, especially their brains and lungs Are less likely to have breathing problems as a newborn Are less likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit Eat better and generally thrive
“Babies born after 39 weeks typically require less medical care and interventions after birth,” Gregg said. “It is important to mention that many babies born naturally or due to medical necessity between 37-39 weeks typically do well, but statistically 39 weeks is best for babies.”
Team Effort, Technology Help Stop Early Elective Deliveries
According to data from the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, there were zero early elective obstetric deliveries in UVA’s Labor and Delivery inpatient unit; the average early elective delivery rate statewide was 1.93 percent. However, babies are still delivered sooner than 39 weeks at UVA if medically indicated to protect the health of the baby or the mother.
A multidisciplinary team of obstetricians, nurses and healthcare providers from across Women’s Services and the Children’s Hospital – including the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Department of Pediatrics – educated their colleagues and patients on the importance of not scheduling elective deliveries until 39 weeks.
UVA also uses its electronic medical record, EpicCare, to reduce early elective deliveries. Order sets developed in EpicCare stop elective deliveries unless the physician provides a medical reason why a baby needs to be delivered early.
“I am very proud of the work our physician and nursing teams accomplished. Their collaboration contributed mightily to this excellent performance,” said James E. (Jef) Ferguson, MD, MBA , chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
UVA was one of 13 hospitals in Virginia – and the only hospital in the area – to receive the March of Dimes/VHHA award at the 2014 Virginia Patient Safety Summit.