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National Quality Forum Endorses National Consensus Standards for Perinatal Care
Date:10/28/2008

New NQF-endorsed measures can improve quality of care for mothers and babies

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing the importance of quality healthcare for mothers and newborns the National Quality Forum endorsed 17 perinatal standards to measure and thereby improve care received by mothers and babies during the third trimester of pregnancy through hospital discharge. Consensus standards improve quality of care by standardizing measurement in care settings and encouraging accountability and public reporting.

NQF was guided in its endorsement of these perinatal care measures by nearly 300 comments from NQF members and the public.

Pregnancy, childbirth and care for newborns is the most common reason for hospital admission, and childbirth-related procedures account for the five most common procedures in patients aged 18-44. Poor quality care during the third trimester, labor and delivery, and during the post-partum period can translate into unnecessary complications, prolonged hospital stays, and costly intensive care admissions.

"Without appropriate information about hospital performance at a national level, perinatal quality improvement efforts have been unfocused and incentives for improvement limited," said NQF president and CEO Janet Corrigan. "There have been relatively few standardized measures in the field of perinatal care to assess and publicly report on the safety and quality of care. As evidenced by the record-breaking number of comments NQF received during the endorsement process, there was an enormous need for more standardized consensus standards in this area. A more complete set of NQF-endorsed(TM) perinatal performance measures will provide the necessary tools for a unified national approach to quality improvement for mothers and babies."

The newly NQF-endorsed measures are patient-focused and address care provided by individual clinicians such as nurses, doctors, and midwives, both in hospitals and in free-standing birth centers. The perinatal standards fill gaps in quality measurement and measure care at critical points for the mother and baby from the third trimester through hospital discharge and reflect aspects of care that can be substantially influenced by provider performance. Ultimately, through public reporting and accountability, the measures - birth trauma rate for the mother and baby, and relevant vaccinations for newborns - increase patient safety and decrease serious complications from childbirth.

Laura Riley, MD, medical director for labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Maureen Corry, MPH, executive director of Childbirth Connection, co-chaired NQF's steering committee on perinatal care.

"This is a huge step forward for the medical community and for women as we all strive to improve obstetrical and neonatal care," said Riley. "Meaningful improvements cannot be made until we have a common set of goals which encompass prenatal, intrapartum, postpartum, and early newborn care. Constant assessment of the care measures endorsed by NQF will allow us to address areas of weakness and reallocate resources where needed to provide babies with the best possible start to life."

In NQF's effort to endorse a set of measures for perinatal care that are relevant, feasible, usable, scientifically acceptable, and will drive toward higher performance, several previously endorsed perinatal measures were retired from endorsement.

"The new perinatal care measure set takes a big leap forward for maternity care quality improvement," said Corry. "With more than 4 million births per year in the United States, these measures will impact a large number of mothers and babies and provide consumers and purchasers with essential information to make informed decisions on maternity care quality and value."

In its ongoing work to improve quality in healthcare, NQF will continue to look at measures addressing vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) to add to this set of measures.

How to Appeal

NQF is a voluntary consensus standards-setting organization. Any party may request reconsideration of the recommendations, in whole or in part, by notifying NQF in writing via e-mail no later than November 25 (appeals@qualityforum.org). For an appeal to be considered, the notification e-mail must include information clearly demonstrating that the appellant has interests that are directly and materially affected by the NQF-endorsed recommendations and that the NQF decision has had (or will have) an adverse effect on those interests.

Funding

This work was funded by the Hospital Corporation of America.

MEASURES ENDORSED BY NQF

Please visit our website at http://www.qualityforum.org to read the full specifications for all new NQF-endorsed voluntary consensus standards and read NQF's research recommendations.

The mission of the National Quality Forum is to improve the quality of American healthcare by setting national priorities and goals for performance improvement, endorsing national consensus standards for measuring and publicly reporting on performance, and promoting the attainment of national goals through education and outreach programs. NQF, a non-profit organization (qualityforum.org) with diverse stakeholders across the public and private health sectors, was established in 1999 and is based in Washington, DC.


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SOURCE National Quality Forum
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