An Initiative to Reduce the Episiotomy Rate: Association of Feedback and the Hawthorne Effect With Leapfrog Goals

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To assess the association of education, performance feedback, and the Hawthorne effect with a reduction in the episiotomy rate in a large academic institution.


We describe a prospective observational study of a project conducted between March 2012 and February 2017 to assist clinicians in meeting the Leapfrog Group ( target rates for episiotomy. Phases of this project included preintervention (phase 1, March 2012 to April 2014), education and provision of collective department episiotomy rates (phase 2, May 2014 to December 2014), ongoing education with emphasis on a revised Leapfrog target rate (phase 3, January 2015 to February 2016), and provision of individual episiotomy rates to practitioners on a monthly basis (phase 4, March 2016 to February 2017). We analyzed the department episiotomy rates before, during, and after these efforts. Cases of shoulder dystocia were excluded from this analysis. Statistical analysis was performed using a two-tailed Student t test and χ2 test with P<.05 considered significant.


During the study period 1,176 episiotomies were performed in 16,441 vaginal deliveries (7.2%). In phase 2 (2,352 vaginal deliveries), there was a nonsignificant drop in the episiotomy rate with education alone (9.0–8.2%, P=.21). In phase 3 (4,379 vaginal deliveries), the episiotomy rate demonstrated an additional, significant drop to 5.9% (P<.001), but this reduction did not reach the new Leapfrog goal of 5%. In phase 4 (3,160 vaginal deliveries), the hospital episiotomy rate again dropped significantly from 5.9% to 4.37% (P=.007) and met the target rate of 5%. This reduction was sustained over a 12-month time period. During this same time period, the rate of operative vaginal delivery among vaginal births increased (4.5–5.4%, P=.003) and there was no significant change in the rates of third- and fourth-degree perineal laceration (3.8–3.3%, P=.19).


Education, performance feedback, and the Hawthorne effect were associated with a reduction in the episiotomy rate in a large academic institution without a reduction in the rate of operative vaginal delivery or an increase in the rate of third- and fourth-degree lacerations.

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