- Only one in five hospitals meet safety watchdog Leapfrog's standards for maternity care quality, according to a report released Wednesday.
- Leapfrog focused on three measures — cesarean sections, early elective deliveries and episiotomy rates. Lower rates are generally indicators of better care quality as the three procedures can unnecessarily raise risks to the health of women and their babies.
- Overall, rates for early elective deliveries and episiotomy have declined in recent years while the rate of NTSV cesarean births has remained largely flat at about 26%, according to the report.
About 700 women in the U.S. die from a pregnancy-related complication every year, and about 60% of those deaths are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These and other troubling statistics have made maternity care a focus for the health industry in recent months.
Payers and providers have attempted to tackle the issue in part through value-based payment programs. Last month, Humana rolled out a maternity bundled payment model with an initial five OB-GYN practices, covering prenatal visits through post-delivery care.
Medicaid's Strong Start initiative has shown some success across three evidence-based maternity care service approaches tested over five years. Women in the program had lower costs and better outcomes, including reduced rates of cesarean section, according to CMS.
The rate of early elective deliveries was at 1.5% last year, an improvement from 17% in 2010 and well below Leapfrog's recommendation of 5% or lower, Leapfrog found. The group has the same target percentage for episiotomy rates, which were at 6.9% in 2018, down from 7.8% in 2017. The 26% rate for NTSV cesarean births is just above Leapfrog’s suggested 23.9%.
"Our report finds good and bad news for expectant mothers," Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder said in a statement. "But the best news is that more hospitals than ever are transparent about their maternity care quality — something expectant families have sought for a long time. The data suggest that we have a ways to go before hospitals achieve the results the evidence suggests is best for women and babies."