Viewpoint: How whiteboards could help hospitals cut C-section rates

Improved communication may be the missing piece of the puzzle for hospitals trying to lower their cesarean-section rates, journalist Allison Yarrow wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.

In 2017, 32 percent of live births involved C-sections, according to the CDC. This figure more than doubles the World Health Organization's recommended range of 10 to 15 percent.

Many hospitals have implemented quality initiatives to lower their C-section rates and only see modest improvements, according to Ms. Yarrow. She cited Overlake Medical Center as an example. The Bellevue, Wash.-based hospital's C-section rate has stayed around 30 percent since 2014, despite the hospital applying evidence-based best practices to reduce it. Now, the hospital is taking a new approach using a simple tool: whiteboards.

Ms. Yarrow said every labor and delivery room in the hospital contains a large whiteboard in which the care team writes down four things:

  • The name of every team member
  • The patient's birthing preferences
  • The status of the patient, baby and labor process
  • A time for when the whole care team and patient will reconvene

The whiteboards are meant to keep mothers more informed at every stage of labor, which could help reduce C-section rates, according to Ms. Yarrow. 

Overlake is one of four community hospitals investigating the use of whiteboards in a clinical trial set to end this year. Preliminary results show the strategy is proving effective at decreasing C-sections.

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