By Tammie Smith
Moms-to-be searching for hospitals with the lowest charges for childbirth or for doctors with lower cesarean rates can find that information in a revamped obstetrics guide from Virginia Health Information.
The expanded Web-based guide lets users enter a ZIP code and view details about nearby providers or enter a doctor's name and view information.
"We have been asking years and years for an update," said Mary Callender of the Richmond chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network. "It's a good tool for women to use when determining what provider they want to go with in having their baby."
The guide lists average hospital charges for vaginal and cesarean births by doctor and hospital. Women also can check, for instance, whether a hospital has nurse midwives or features such as birthing balls or hydrotherapy for laboring in water.
The guide is compiled from data from multiple sources, said Michael Lundberg, executive director of Virginia Health Information, a private agency that receives state funds to collect and report health data.
He said hospitals were sent a 160-item survey to complete. Other information was pulled from state vital records, hospital discharges and the Virginia Board of Medicine.
"The information is very extensive," Lundberg said.
When users click to see hospital information, the first page that pops up includes cesarean-birth rates. About 34 percent of births in Virginia are by cesarean delivery, higher than the national average of 31.8 percent, Lundberg said.
The guide shows what percentage of a doctor's patients are first-time and repeat cesareans -- important information for women trying to have a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean birth.
Callender said it is often difficult to get information by just calling a doctor or hospital. "Now it's right there on the page," she said…