An Iowa hospital is one of several throughout the country that are working on an initiative to improve the care given to babies who’re born prematurely. Doctor Dan Ellsbury of Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines says it’s called the “100,000 babies campaign.”

Ellsbury says the purpose is to take a systematic and comprehensive look at what takes place in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and to redesign the care so that everything gets done that needs to be done and care is improved. He says they hope to reengineer the care for 100,000 babies over a two to three year period. Ellsbury says the NICU’s tend to focus on one particular area that the do well.

Ellsbury says they’ve found there’s a very big interaction with all the areas, you may improve nutrition, but get more infections because of the way you did it. Ellsbury says they want to take a comprehensive look at all the different areas, with the hope that improving all the areas will improve overall care, instead of making one thing better and having the others get worse. He says each hospital has different techniques they’ve used to achieve success in various areas.

Ellsbury says that’s because of the type of patients, the number of doctors and nurses and a variety of factors that make some things harder to do in one place than it is in another. The goal is to use the information from the various hospitals and share what works. Ellsbury says the long-term goal is to improve the care early and prevent problems for the babies later.

“So what we’re hoping to do is if we can implement all these things that we want to implement, we can reduce complications, because we’ve seen as one complication occurs, others will often follow and then ultimately the baby’s outcome is worse,” Ellsbury says.

The hospitals involved are storing their information in an electronic database that will be studied to assess the treatments used. Some 700 premature babies are born at Mercy each year. In 2006 1-in-9 babies were born prematurely in Iowa.