Minnesota health system sees sharp decline in early-term births

Thanks in part to data warehousing, analytics tools

North Memorial Health Care, a two-hospital health system situated in the Northwest metro of Minneapolis, has reduced its rate of potentially harmful and unnecessary early-term deliveries, using data warehousing and analytics.

Officials at the health system cited difficulties integrating data from the variety of different clinical IT systems employed by North Memorial as cause for implementing new solutions. Clinical data was collected by a Health Catalyst warehousing solution from sources including North Memorial's Epic electronic health record. Officials then defined when early-term deliveries were appropriate, standardized clinician workflows and improved processes for pregnant women and newborn care.
 
The health system's use of the technology and the team processes it developed reduced its rate of elective pre 39-week deliveries by 75 percent in six months, from 1.2 percent to 0.3 percent of all births (officials at the health system had originally set a goal of 0.6 percent).
 
North Memorial officials point to studies suggesting that elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks increase the risk of newborn respiratory distress in addition to the rates of C-sections, which can lead to postpartum anemia and extendeded hospital stays. Cutting the odds of these complications, officials add, is becoming increasingly critical for hospitals as they struggle to adjust to rising costs, stiff regional pressures from competitors and reimbursement trends.
 
As a result, the health system achieved significant reductions in the cost of providing this care, exceeding the terms of a pre-arranged incentive payment of $200,000 from one of its primary insurance partners, official said.
 
"We were previously a very old school, paper-driven organization that often made decisions based on gut feeling rather than data," said Kevin J. Croston, MD, chief medical officer of North Memorial, in a statement. The health system tapped data warehousing company Health Catalyst for the technology.

"By putting information directly into the hands of physicians, the initiative has worn down traditional physician resistance to change, which can complicate hospitals' attempts to implement sweeping clinical quality improvements," said Croston.