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Oklahoma Children's Hospital OU Health Joins Consortium for Neonatal Intensive Care


Published: Monday, March 1, 2021

Oklahoma Children's Hospital OU Health has joined The Children's Hospitals Neonatal Consortium (CHNC), a collaborative of North America's leading children's hospitals that work together to improve care for infants who are critically ill.

Oklahoma Children's Hospital provides the state's only Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the highest level of care for newborns. As such, Oklahoma Children's Hospital treats children with the most complex and rare diseases and conditions. Across the nation, these infants have an average 25-day hospital stay and require more resources than any other type of pediatric patient. By sharing data and best practices, CHNC members can improve the outcomes for these babies.

"When families bring their babies to Oklahoma Children's Hospital, they expect that we will provide the most advanced treatments and comprehensive care," said OU Health neonatologist Patricia Williams, M.D. "Through this consortium, we can collaborate with experts across the country and determine which practices are leading to the best outcomes for these babies with rare and complex conditions. That means families can receive the highest level of care without leaving the state or their support networks."

The CHNC provides its members a comprehensive database of clinical outcomes and resource utilization for babies in the NICU. Hospitals leverage that data to improve the care of babies with conditions they may see only a few times a year. By sharing data and pooling resources, they create improvements that could not be accomplished by one hospital alone. The database also allows member hospitals to undertake quality improvement initiatives both locally and across the consortium.

"For example, we currently have a project in the CHNC looking at the factors that keep a baby in the hospital longer than anticipated," said OU Health neonatologist Abhishek Makkar, M.D. "By looking at each center to determine our similarities and differences, we can adopt best practices."

All types of healthcare providers involved in an infant's treatment - from physicians to surgeons and nurses to respiratory therapists - are part of the consortium's efforts. "It's nice to be part of a group that opens the door for everyone to contribute," said Trent Tipple, M.D., OU Health Section Chief of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. "Our interdisciplinary teams, including our trainees in medicine and nursing, are crucial for providing high-quality care."

CHNC members represent the top neonatology programs in the United States and Canada. In some instances, the hospitals might be considered rivals, but for this effort, they are partners working collectively to advance treatments for the youngest and most critically ill patients.

"The CHNC allows us to benchmark our patient outcomes in real time," Tipple said. "When you're benchmarking care for complex conditions, it's important that you're benchmarking against the right comparisons. As peer institutions, we are the only hospitals in our areas treating infants with these complex conditions. It has nothing to do with competition and everything to do with outcomes.

"Oklahoma Children's Hospital is one of 39 participating sites in the CHNC. Across the nation, NICU patients represent only 7-8% of the patient population for these hospitals, but because of their complex care needs and long length of stay, they comprise approximately one-quarter of the patient days and over 20% of the total inpatient charges of a children's hospital. By marrying pediatric outcomes to measures of resource utilization, the CHNC aims to both improve the quality of care as well as optimize expenditures in the care of medically complex infants.

"The CHNC is very excited to have Oklahoma Children's Hospital join in our nonprofit's mission to improve care for infants with complex and uncommon disease," said Jacquelyn Evans, M.D., executive director of the CHNC. "Our database is now the largest of its kind for this unique patient population, and we are very proud of the passion and dedication of our interdisciplinary neonatal experts who contribute to CHNC'S mission by their rapid sharing of data and knowledge. We are confident Oklahoma Children's Hospital's participation in the CHNC will bring value both to the consortium and to the care of infants across the state of Oklahoma."