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Dramatic Reduction in Early Elective Deliveries

Dignity Health prevents NICU stays for 70 newborns, saves $1 million in less than a year

San Francisco, CA – January 22, 2013 – Dignity Health, the fifth largest health system in the nation, announced today that it has reduced early elective deliveries from 7 percent to 1 percent in less than one year after a focused education and intervention effort.

The 32 hospitals in the Dignity Health system that operate labor and delivery units have reduced early elective deliveries between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation and have saved an estimated $1 million in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit costs. Most Dignity Health hospitals are already at zero percent, showing that the goal of improved quality outcomes and lower costs can be achieved in tandem. Dignity Health member hospital Mercy Medical Center in particular has reduced their early elective deliveries significantly – from 27 percent to zero percent. For the past two decades, the frequency of early elective deliveries has been on the rise.

Expectant mothers often prefer to plan the birth date in advance and be assured of having their own doctor deliver the baby. Other factors include reducing the number of days of discomfort during late stage pregnancy, and making sure that an anticipated quick delivery occurs in a hospital. However, early elective delivery comes with risks, including increased newborn feeding problems, increased respiratory distress syndrome, and increased Neonatal Intensive Care admissions, according to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. Newborns admitted to the NICU typically spend five days in the hospital.

"Bringing a new life into the world is one of life's most rewarding experiences, both for a family and for caregivers," said Robert Wiebe, MD, chief medical officer for Dignity Health. "We always want to give our children the best possible start in life, and that is what this effort is all about."

Wiebe said the significant results in the first few months of the program prompted Dignity Health to accelerate what had been a three-year implementation timetable.

"We applaud Dignity Health for their commitment to the health of moms and babies," shares Leslie Kowalewski, Associate State Director of the March of Dimes in California. "Their efforts are showing a positive impact in the health and wellbeing of their patients. We hope all hospital systems will take a similar stand and join the efforts of Dignity Health to make these constructive changes."


Dignity Health has reduced early elective deliveries from 7 percent to 1 percent in less than one year, preventing 70 NICU admissions and saving $1 million.

Publish date: 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013