Unnecessary surgeries: 4 ways to reduce C-sections

Cesarean section is one of the most commonly-performed surgical procedure, but it’s often performed unnecessarily.

More than 60% of reporting hospitals had excessive rates of cesarean section, according to the Leapfrog Group, but there are steps that they can take to reduce them.

Leah Binder, CEO of Leapfrog, writes in a column for Forbes that hospitals should adopt four strategies to reduce the number of unneeded C-sections and wasteful surgeries overall. She notes that in the past 20 years the number of Cesarean sections performed has increased by more than 50%.

Indeed, a 2014 Consumer Reports analysis found that hospitals perform C-sections for a variety of reasons, including ease of scheduling and patient or doctor convenience. But many of the surgeries are unnecessary and can lead to additional risks for patients and higher costs.

“Pressure to change has to come from inside the healthcare system and from outside, from the market,” Binder writes.

To reduce unnecessary surgeries, she suggests that hospitals:

  1. Be transparent and participate in public data reporting to help make the problem clearer to both providers and patients.
  2. Support payment reforms. Some providers will not pay more for C-section births, Binder writes, and in South Carolina, Medicaid has announced it will pay one rate for all births. 
  3. Involve clinicians. As patients become more aware of the high rates of C-sections, they’ll likely ask obstetricians about other approaches. Doctors must be ready for those conversations, Binder says, and should lead movements to reduce those rates.
  4. Seek support from system leaders. Hospital leaders must be behind a change in the organization's culture, encouraging staff education about different ways to support women in labor.