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Obstetrical Care Improvements Increased Quality and Reduced Costs

In reviewing its data, Intermountain found that there were a “golden few” clinical processes that made up the bulk of care that the system delivers. Just 104 clinical processes accounted for 95 percent of all of Intermountain’s care delivery. Eleven percent of these related solely to obstetrics. Intermountain realized that it could have a bigger impact on quality overall by focusing on this area because of the sheer numbers of obstetrical patients, so it developed care protocols that resulted in fewer elective induced labors, cesarean sections, while reducing overall costs.


How Intermountain Trimmed Health Care Costs Through Robust Quality Improvement Efforts

Adapted from the article by Brent C. James and Lucy A. Savitz is available at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/6/1185.full.html

Since the late 1980s, Intermountain Healthcare of Utah and Idaho has applied a process management philosophy that maintains the best way to reduce costs is to improve quality. To implement this philosophy system-wide, Intermountain created data systems and management structures that increased accountability and drove quality improvement. It also achieved significant cost savings by measuring, understanding, and managing variation among clinicians in providing care.

In reviewing its data, Intermountain found that there were a relative “golden few” clinical processes that made up the bulk of care that the system delivers. Just 104 clinical processes—roughly 7 percent of the 1,400—accounted for 95 percent of all of Intermountain’s care delivery. Eleven percent related solely to obstetrics. Intermountain realized that it could have a bigger impact on quality overall by focusing on this area because of the sheer numbers of obstetrical patients.

Induction of early labor has been associated with higher rates of complications for both mothers and newborns, so, in 2001, Intermountain’s pregnancy, labor, and delivery leadership decided to focus on the induction of early labor as a target for improvement. The team created a shared baseline and a standardized electronic checklist that identified when elective induction is medically appropriate. The protocol was deployed across the entire Intermountain system, which performs more than 32,000 deliveries each year. If the patient met the criteria, the induction proceeded; if not, the nurses informed the attending obstetrician that it could not proceed without approval from the chair of the obstetrics department or a specialist in high-risk pregnancies.

The new protocol helped reduce rates of elective induced labor, unplanned cesarean sections, and admissions to newborn intensive care units. Elective inductions that were not clinically appropriate fell from 28 percent to less than 2 percent of all inductions. Intermountain’s overall rate of deliveries by cesarean section is now 21 percent, while the national rate is approaching 34 percent. There were cost efficiencies as well. Intermountain estimates that the elective induction protocol reduces health care costs in Utah by about $50 million per year. If applied nationally, it would lower health care delivery costs by about $3.5 billion annually.

Intermountain implemented other evidence-based quality improvement initiatives that resulted in enhanced patient safety, better outcomes, and lower overall costs.

Keywords: care teams, care management, care coordination, communication, electronic medical record, EMR, evidence-based medicine, health information technology, Intermountain Healthcare, induced labor, obstetrics, Salt Lake City, Utah, safety, treatment, value

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Dave Green
Communications Manager
Intermountain Healthcare
36 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
tel. 801.442.2844
dave.green@ihc.com
www.ihc.com

Diabetic Care Management at Intermountain Healthcare

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death by disease in the US. But caring for diabetic patients is remarkably simple. Most health care providers understand what needs to be done to keep diabetics well, but it is difficult and time-intensive to get the patient to participate in the process — and it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. To care effectively for diabetic patients, a care management model must be put in place and followed consistently in order to keep diabetic patients healthy. Intermountain Healthcare’s system makes it easier for the health provider and the patient to do the right thing.


Diabetic Care Management at Intermountain Healthcare Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death by disease in the US. But caring for diabetic patients is remarkably simple. Most health providers understand what needs to be done to keep diabetics well, but it is difficult and time-intensive to get the patient to participate in the process — and it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. To care effectively for diabetic patients, a care management model must be put in place and followed consistently in order to keep diabetic patients healthy. Here’s how Intermountain Healthcare does it:

  1. When a diabetic patient is identified (in one of its 140 clinics, 21 hospitals, or among its 400,000 health plan members), this is noted in Intermountain’s advanced computerized electronic patient record.
  2. This electronic record then follows the patient wherever they go in the Intermountain system and identifies them to caregivers as diabetic.
  3. Patient education is provided in the physician office as well as in regular, consistent mailings. Care managers (typically nurses) are assigned to help individual diabetic patients and make outreach phone calls.
  4. Most of Intermountain’s hospitals and large clinics offer diabetic education classes as well as diabetic educators who visit the patients in their hospital room. There are multiple Diabetes Education Centers that have more than 20,000 patient visits each year.
  5. Patients are strongly encouraged and frequently reminded to get tests and screenings related to their diabetes. This helps them keep their blood sugar in control and avoid other complications.
  6. Intermountain’s health plan sends quarterly diabetes reports to physician offices listing the names, screening statuses, and lab results of diabetic patients. If patients have not been filling their diabetic medication prescriptions, the physician is notified so he can follow up with the patient. This report also allows physicians to see how his/her diabetes patient management compares to other physicians.
  7. Clinical teams of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, diabetes educators, and computer specialists meet monthly to measure and refine the process.

How does diabetic care at Intermountain compare to the U.S.? Two examples:

  • Intermountain ranks above the national average in getting patients to do annual extensive HbA1c (blood sugar) testing, with 90 percent participating appropriately.
  • Only 22 percent of Intermountain patients have poor HbA1c control compared to the national average of 29 percent. Poor control can contribute to a variety of other health problems.

It’s important to note that it’s unlikely any health care organization will achieve perfection. Much of this process depends on personal involvement by the patient, and some patients are more motivated than others.

Keywords:care teams, care management, care coordination, communication, diabetes, electronic medical record, EMR, evidence-based medicine, health information technology, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah, safety, treatment, value

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Dave Green
Communications Manager
Intermountain Healthcare
36 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 8411
tel. 801.442.2844
dave.green@ihc.com
www.ihc.com

Controlling Elective Inductions at Intermountain Brings Benefits to Mothers and Newborns

A few years ago, Intermountain noticed a striking trend that was part of a larger national phenomenon. Women and their doctors were more frequently choosing to induce labor and increasingly, those inductions were happening at 37 or 38 weeks gestational age. Intermountain’s medical research team was concerned that early inductions might have negative health consequences for babies and moms. Armed with statistical information from their own hospitals and using standards from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, Intermountain instituted a new guideline to limit labor inductions before 39 weeks unless a consulting physician agreed that an earlier induction was medically necessary. Today, there is strong support for the best practice protocol throughout all of Intermountain’s labor and delivery units.


Elective Inductions

Utah has the highest birthrate in the nation, so it may not be surprising that close to 33,000 babies are delivered every year at Intermountain Healthcare, a Salt Lake City-based system of nonprofit hospitals and clinics. In fact, labor and delivery is the most common admission for Intermountain’s 18 hospitals that offer the service. But beyond delivering lots of babies, Intermountain Healthcare also has a national reputation for quality improvement efforts, which are supported by a sophisticated electronic medical record system.

A few years ago, Intermountain noticed a striking trend that was part of a larger national phenomenon. Women and their doctors were more frequently choosing to induce labor and increasingly, those inductions were happening at 37 or 38 weeks gestational age. Intermountain’s medical research team was concerned that early inductions might have negative health consequences for babies and moms. When they analyzed the data from births at Intermountain’s hospitals, they found that women who deliver before babies reach 39 weeks gestational age tend to have longer and more complicated deliveries. Researchers also found a statistically significant increase in the number of newborns with medical complications.

Specifically, the data showed that of babies delivered at 37 weeks gestational age, 8.85 percent were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. The number dropped to 4.51 percent of babies delivered at 38 weeks and then bottomed out to 3.34 percent at 39 weeks. The percentage of NICU admissions climbs slowly for babies born at 40 weeks gestational age and beyond. So according to Intermountain’s statistics, hitting the magic 39-week mark seemed to significantly cut the chances of a baby being sent to the NICU.

But that wasn’t all the research found. Babies also were more likely to struggle with respiratory distress syndrome if physicians electively induced labor before 39 weeks. The data showed that if delivery occurs at 37 weeks, 1.92 percent of babies were affected. At 38 weeks the percentage drops to .68 percent and bottoms out at .42 percent at 39 weeks, before slightly climbing again at 40 weeks. The need for newborns to be on a ventilator was also significantly reduced if delivery occurred at 39 weeks gestational age.

Armed with statistical information from their own hospitals and using standards from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, Intermountain instituted a new guideline to limit labor inductions before 39 weeks unless a consulting physician agreed that an earlier induction was medically necessary. Today, there is strong support for the best practice protocol throughout all of Intermountain’s labor and delivery units.

In 1999, approximately 28 percent of all inductions at Intermountain’s hospitals occurred before 39 weeks. Today, that percentage is near two percent. And with the significant drop in early elective inductions, Intermountain has also seen a 90-minute drop in the average length of labor in electively induced patients, with fewer cesarean sections (about 21 percent compared to the national average of 31 percent) and other medical complications associated with deliveries. The guidelines benefit new babies and their moms. And as icing on the cake, the protocol has also saved patients millions each year.

Keywords: early elective inductions, evidence-based medicine, labor and delivery, labor induction, Intermountain Healthcare, neonatal, NICU, quality improvement, Salt Lake City, Utah, safety, treatment, value

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Dave Green
Communications Manager
Intermountain Healthcare
36 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
tel. 801.442.2844
dave.green@ihc.com
www.ihc.com