The U.S. maternal healthcare system isn’t working. Access to perinatal services in the nation is difficult and women, especially those belonging to ethnic-racial minorities, and those of lower socioeconomic statuses, face significant challenges to receiving the care they need.
This disparity is not just a matter of statistics; it reflects a deep-seated inequity within the healthcare system.
The fragmentation of US maternal care services exacerbates this issue, creating an environment where patients often feel unsupported, having to advocate and individually pursue the care they require, and where healthcare providers feel overwhelmed. This results not only in adverse outcomes for mother and child, but also inflates the overall cost of care.
Maternal mortality is worsening
The current U.S. maternal mortality rate stands at 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, aligning more closely with Iran than with its peers like the U.K. or Germany. Alarmingly, black women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy compared to their Hispanic or white counterparts.
Perhaps most concerning, is that over 80% of these mortality cases are preventable, underscoring the urgent need for a systemic overhaul in maternal healthcare that aims to bridge these gaps and facilitate every mothers’ access to reliable and affordable healthcare.
What’s driving the crisis?
While there has been a reduction in deaths during childbirth, clinical and policy interventions have neglected the time before and after delivery. Approximately 30% of complications arise after the baby is born. Yet, most interventions are tailored to improving care only at the time of delivery, leaving many mothers at risk of both physiological and psychological consequences of pregnancy.
Recent research also highlights a significant shift in the demographics of those giving birth. People are choosing to have children later in life, a period often accompanied by pre-existing chronic conditions such as obesity or cardiovascular disease. These factors further elevate the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and consequently the need for additional care and intervention.
This is not withstanding the documented disparities in the way in which black women and those of other ethnic backgrounds receive healthcare. Black women face a disproportionately high risk of severe maternal morbidity, including complications like hypertension and anxiety during labor and delivery.
Ensuring each patient’s specific health needs are addressed within the current maternal healthcare system requires the coordination of primary health physicians, obstetricians and specialist providers. Yet most electronic health record (EHR) systems lack the ability to seamlessly integrate across services. With no central system through which to coordinate, women have been left to seek help on their own.
A better approach
A new era in maternal care is emerging with the advent of maternity care management platforms. Innovative organizations are centralizing the coordination of all patient care aspects, seamlessly integrating with providers’ electronic health records, existing workflows, and health information exchanges. This approach is unifying the patient care pathway, bridging the gaps between providers, patients, health plans, and secondary providers, and leading to enhanced patient outcomes.
Integrated and appropriate care
With bi-directional EHR integration and emergency alert protocols, a maternity care management system can provide real-time escalation for necessary interventions and closed-loop referrals for comprehensive support services that address individual patient needs. Furthermore, such referrals consider patient preferences, location, and culturally concordant care practices, enhancing patient engagement and satisfaction.
Those platforms with mobile apps and maternity care coordinators are further streamlining how patients connect with services such as nutrition, mental health, and breastfeeding support, making comprehensive healthcare far more accessible and cost-effective all while reducing strain on the system.
Digital health doing what it’s supposed to do
This innovative approach exemplifies the effectiveness of integrated, patient-centered maternity care by not only improving health outcomes but also patient satisfaction.
By simplifying and unifying the maternal care ecosystem, maternal health management platforms ease the administrative load on physicians, enhance the efficiency of health plan operations, and provide mothers with a host of self-management tools that can play a big role in the prevention of pregnancy-related complications. Thus, lowering costs for health plans, increasing revenue for providers, and ensuring patients no longer fall through the cracks.
Photo: FatCamera, Getty Images