Friday, November 12, 2004

This is news?

“Mothers should wait for baby, new study finds.” This was the headline of an article last week. Apparently Utah’s Intermountain Health Care studied 85,000 births and decided it was not a good idea to induce labor, except when medically necessary, before 39 weeks’ gestation. Inducing labor early, it found, produced a higher complication rate, especially for infant respiration.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see an HMO asking its physicians to wait until 39 weeks to induce labor. On the other hand, is anyone surprised that bringing babies out before 40 weeks gestation, especially when the mother’s body has not started labor on its own, can be detrimental?

Of course, what gets the HMO’s attention is cost. And because it is cheaper to keep babies out of the NICU and off ventilators, they decided to adopt a policy that facilitates that. It is worth noting that Intermountain Health Care (IHC)was awarded the top rank in a national survey of nearly 500 integrated health care systems (I wanted to link to the actual survey results, but they were only available for a fee at Modern Healthcare). In the assessment of Verispan, a Chicago consulting firm, IHC’s doctors, hospitals and health plans do the best job of providing for patients’ health.

So think about that. It has taken the best health care provider in the country this long to decide that postponing elective inductions until week 39 is advantageous. What does that mean for the 400+ other HMOs? Will they soon follow suit? Or will it take them a long time to see that, yet again, nature usually knows best?

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