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UVA Women’s Services & Children’s Hospital Honored for Protecting Health of Newborns

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Women's services and the children's hospital at the University of Virginia are being honored for their efforts to stop early elective deliveries.

Doctors say the recognition shows commitment to improving the health of newborn babies. UVA was the only hospital in the area to receive the March of Dimes award at the Virginia Patient Safety Summit last month. The health system credits teamwork and technology in helping to prevent babies from being born too early.

An early elective delivery is defined as giving birth without a medical reason before 39 weeks of gestation. Physicians say research shows a baby born before that time period is at higher risk of newborn complications.

UVA has had a zero percent early elective delivery rate for more than 15 months. The statewide average last year was nearly 2 percent.

“Without a specific medical indication, babies born after 39 weeks by planned delivery - whether that's a vaginal birth or a C-section - have the lowest rate of respiratory complications, they have better brain development, they feed better and they require less medical care,” said Christian Chisholm, medical director of the Women’s Place.

UVA also uses its electronic medical record to reduce early elective deliveries. The system stops doctors from delivering a baby early unless a medical reason is provided.

The Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association initiated a nationwide program to stop early elective deliveries about a year ago.

University of Virginia Children’s Hospital Press Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., March 18, 2014 – 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,” saidJames 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.

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