The Vermont Oxford Network is a voluntary collaborative group of health professionals committed to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of medical care for newborn infants and their families through a coordinated program of research, education, and quality-improvement projects. In support of these activities, the Network maintains a clinical database of information about very low birth weight infants that now has more than 300 participating neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). We anticipate that these NICUs will submit data for 25 000 infants with birth weights of 401 to 1500 g born in 1998.
The research program of the Network includes outcomes research and randomized clinical trials. The goal of Network outcomes research is to identify and explain the variations in clinical practice and patient outcomes that are apparent among NICUs. Network trials are designed to answer practical questions of importance to practitioners and families using pragmatic designs that can be integrated into the daily practice of neonatology.
Quality improvement is a major focus of the Network. Members receive confidential quarterly and annual reports based on the Network database that document their performance and compare practices and outcomes at their unit with those at other units within the Network. These reports are intended to assist the members in identifying opportunities for improvement and to help them monitor the success of their improvement efforts.
Although information is necessary for improvement to occur, it is not sufficient to foster lasting improvement by itself. Information must be translated into action. The Network is sponsoring an ongoing program of quality initiatives designed to provide members with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources needed to foster action for improvement.
The Network's first formal quality-improvement project, the NIC/Q Project, brought together 10 NICUs to apply the methods of collaborative improvement and benchmarking to neonatal intensive care. Building on the lessons learned in that initial project, the Network now is conducting the Vermont Oxford Network Evidence-Based Quality Improvement Collaborative for Neonatology, known as NIC/Q 2000. This 2-year collaborative will assist multidisciplinary teams from the 34 participating NICUs to develop four key habits for improvement: the habit for change, the habit for practice as a process, the habit for collaborative learning, and the habit for evidence-based practice. During the collaborative, participants will contribute to a knowledge bank of clinical, organizational, and operational change ideas for improving neonatal care.
The coordinated program of research, education, and quality improvement described in this article is only possible because of the voluntary efforts of the members. The Network will continue to support these efforts by developing and providing improved tools and resources for the practice of evidence-based neonatology. neonatology, very low birth weight, database, network, quality improvement, evidence-based medicine, randomization, trials, outcomes, mortality, length of stay.