February 14, 2012 | | Comments 0
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HHS seeks to reduce preterm births with $40m grant incentive

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a $40 million effort to reduce preterm births and ensure more babies are born healthy. Through a program called the Strong Start initiative, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will seek to reduce preterm births by awarding grants to hospitals, healthcare providers, and community coalitions to improve prenatal care, test new methods to reverse the trend, and reduce early elective deliveries.

According to HHS, about 10 percent of all deliveries are scheduled—either as induced or Cesarean-section— before 39 weeks and are not medically indicated.

Testing for early induction of labor is addressed in the Joint Commission’s latest National Patient Safety Goal aimed at minimizing overuse of tests, treatments, and procedures in hopes to prevent harm and reduce waste. The idea is that if evidence shows no benefit, you are exposing a patient to only potential harm by giving an unnecessary test or treatment.

In fact, evidence shows the opposite. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says preterm babies (those born before 39 weeks) are at an increased risk of significant complications such as low birth weight, lung disorders, feeding problems, and blood infections, as well as long-term health problems, and an article released by Kaiser Health News said Medicaid spends $20,000 a year on babies born premature in their first year, almost 10 times that of infants born at full term.

A report by HealthLeader’s Media says reducing early elective births could save $1 billion annually, and according to a survey by The Leapfrog Group, of the 757 hospitals that volunteer to report data on obstetric care quality, too many have obstetricians who still schedule potentially harmful elective Cesareans and inductions too early rather than supporting unprompted deliveries.

To learn more about the effort to reduce preterm births, visit the CMS Innovation website.

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Jackie Zagami About the Author: Jaclyn Beck is the associate director of the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals (AHAP) where she manages AHAP Accreditation Connection, the annual AHAP conference, and contributes to the monthly publication Briefings on The Joint Commission.

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