The percentage of hospitals hitting the Leapfrog Group's early elective delivery target rate of less than 5% of deliveries rose to 46% as of the end of 2012 from 39% in 2011.
In addition, 75% of the 773 hospitals
reporting to the employer-backed not-for-profit healthcare quality group improved their rate of early elective deliveries, with the national average falling to 11.2% of deliveries from 14% in 2011, according to a Leapfrog news release
Leapfrog uses the definition of an early elective delivery as performing elective inductions or cesarean procedures prior to 39 completed weeks' gestation without medical necessity.
Leapfrog noted that dramatic improvement has come in states where stakeholders are pushing for fewer early elective deliveries, such as Illinois and South Carolina. “It's encouraging to see such swift progress as communities and stakeholders rally together, but our fight is far from finished,” said Leah Binder, Leapfrog president and CEO, in the release. Wide variation in rates still exists, with some hospitals reporting rates greater than 40%, according to Leapfrog.
The industry and regulators have been targeting reduced early elective deliveries as a way to improve quality and reduce costs. HHS last year announced it would award $40 million to test approaches
that can help reduce the rising number of pre-term births in the U.S., including early elective deliveries.(This article has been updated to correct the initial year of the study.)