Pediatrics: Quality of Care in US NICUs by Race and Ethnicity

ARTICLE: Erika M. EdwardsLucy T. GreenbergJochen ProfitDavid DraperDaniel HelkeyJeffrey D. Horbar. Quality of Care in US NICUs by Race and Ethnicity

BACKGROUND: Summary measures are used to quantify a hospital’s quality of care by combining multiple metrics into a single score. We used Baby-MONITOR, a summary quality measure for NICUs, to evaluate quality by race and ethnicity across and within NICUs in the United States.

METHODS: Vermont Oxford Network members contributed data from 2015 to 2019 on infants from 25 to 29 weeks’ gestation or of 401 to 1500 g birth weight who were inborn or transferred to the reporting hospital within 28 days of birth. Nine Baby-MONITOR measures were individually risk adjusted, standardized, equally weighted, and averaged to derive scores for African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian infants, compared with white infants.

RESULTS: This prospective cohort included 169 400 infants at 737 hospitals. Across NICUs, Hispanic and Asian American infants had higher Baby-MONITOR summary scores, compared with those of white infants. African American and American Indian infants scored lower on process measures, and all 4 minority groups scored higher on outcome measures. Within NICUs, the mean summary scores for African American, Hispanic, and Asian American NICU subsets were higher, compared with those of white infants in the same NICU. American Indian summary NICU scores were not different, on average.

CONCLUSIONS: With Baby-MONITOR, we identified differences in NICU quality by race and ethnicity. However, the summary score masked within-measure quality gaps that raise unanswered questions about the relationships between race and ethnicity and processes and outcomes of care.