Obstetrics program aims to cut errors and costs

January 12, 2009
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Mothers and newborns will benefit from a new program to improve health care for them in Michigan hospitals, the Michigan Health and Hospitals Association says.

A pilot project is being tested in 13 hospitals, and obstetrics departments across the state will have the opportunity to work with the program after the year-long test period. It promises to reduce medical errors, lower health care costs and improve the quality of patient care, according to the association.

“Michigan seems to be hurting more than other states. Anything we can do to lower costs and provide safety is a no-brainer and a win-win for everyone involved,” Kelly Smith, administrator of women’s health at Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn, one of the pilot-program hospitals.

Other pilot-program hospitals include Mercy Memorial Hospital System in Monroe, Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, and some say it’s too soon to see any results.

Sam Watson, senior vice president of the MHA, said a group of insurance companies representing 16 Michigan hospitals asked his organization to develop the program because about half of their insurance payouts are related to obstetrics complications.

For example, when a patient gets a blood infection while admitted for another reason, he said, an average of an extra $45,000 is spent on care. The program aims to prevent such problems, saving money that could be spent elsewhere.

Oakwood is seeing results already, Smith said. It is implementing about 60 initiatives to improve health care for both women and their infants — such as not delivering before 36 weeks into a pregnancy to make sure the fetus has matured enough for safe delivery.

But the main focus of change is how hospital personnel perform their duties. As a result, Smith said Oakwood has seen a significant decline in complaints and malpractice claims since September when the program was implemented.

The MHA project is funded mostly by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, but hospitals must come up with the money on their own, and the cost would vary.

The program follows a similar one in Michigan hospitals’ intensive care units, which has saved more than 1,700 lives and $246 million since from 2004 to 2008, according to the MHA. HQ

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