Background: In many countries midwives act as the main providers of care for women throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. In our large public teaching hospital in Australia we restructured the way midwifery care is offered and introduced caseload midwifery for one third of women booked at the hospital. We then compared the costs and birth outcomes associated with caseload midwifery compared to the two existing models of care, standard hospital care and private obstetric care.
Methods: We undertook a cross sectional study examining the risk profile, birth outcomes and cost of care for women booked into one of the three available models of care in a tertiary teaching hospital in Australia between July 1st 2009 December 31st 2010. To control for differences in population or case mix we described the outcomes for a cohort of low risk first time mothers known as the 'standard primipara'.
Results: Amongst the 1,379 women defined as 'standard primipara' there were significant differences in birth outcome. These first time 'low risk' mothers who received caseload care were more likely to have a spontaneous onset of labour and an unassisted vaginal birth 58.5% in MGP compared to 48.2% for Standard hospital care and 30.8% with Private obstetric care (p < 0.001). They were also significantly less likely to have an elective caesarean section 1.6% with MGP versus 5.3% with Standard care and 17.2% with private obstetric care (p < 0.001). From the public hospital perspective, over one financial year the average cost of care for the standard primipara in MGP was $3903.78 per woman. This was $1375.45 less per woman than those receiving Private obstetric care and $1590.91 less than Standard hospital care per woman (p < 0.001). Similar differences in cost were found in favour of MGP for all women in the study who received caseload care.
Conclusions: Cost reduction appears to be achieved through reorganising the way care is delivered in the public hospital system with the introduction of Midwifery Group Practice or caseload care. The study also highlights the unexplained clinical variation that exists between the three models of care in Australia.