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New Joint Commission Guidelines Target Poor Maternal Mortality Outcomes

This article excerpts a HealthStream article by Trisha Coady, BSN, RN, Senior Vice President and General Manager of HealthStream’s Clinical Solutions, about the new perinatal care standards that have been issued by the Joint Commission.

January 1, 2021 is the new deadline for U.S. hospitals to adopt new Joint Commission safety standards for the improvement of maternal and perinatal care. The original deadline of July 1, 2020 was delayed due to the healthcare crisis that has been created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Failure to enact measures that comply with these new standards at the Joint Commission-accredited facilities where “4 out of 5 babies nationally are delivered” (Stein, 2019) could put their reimbursement, reputation, and patient care seriously at risk. What is the background behind these new requirements and why did it take so long to understand the need for them?

Serious Problems Exist in Maternal Healthcare

Many Americans were shocked when it became public knowledge that our maternal mortality rate was unacceptably high, surpassing by a significant margin that of all other highly developed countries. For nearly 30 years, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S has risen, even as it was stable or falling elsewhere among developed countries. We are now 55th among industrialized countries in the world. Until recently, the decentralized nature of our healthcare system made it hard to know just how poor outcomes were for new mothers and their infants.

Healthcare organizations had largely blamed issues in maternal health on “problems beyond their control. Almost universally they’ve pointed to poverty and pre-existing medical conditions as the driving factors in making America the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth” (Young et al, 2019). That excuse has kept us from really looking at the performance of doctors and nurses in maternity units, with disastrous results. We now have a better idea due to the work of reporters and researchers at USA Today, whose investigative series, “Deadly Deliveries,” looked in depth at the statistics and the reasons why many U.S. healthcare organizations are doing such an unacceptable job caring for mothers at the time of delivery. Even more importantly, when maternal health measures in the Standards were implemented in California in 2009, the statewide death rate per 100,00 births fell by more than half by 2015 (USA Today, n.d.).

One terrible detail about maternal care complications and fatalities is that “thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster” (Young, 2019). Best practices to protect maternal patients are well-known—many of them are not complicated and require little in the way of complex technology. Because life-protecting measures are overlooked, “Women are left to bleed until their organs shut down. Their high blood pressure goes untreated until they suffer strokes. They die of preventable blood clots and untreated infections. Survivors can be left paralyzed or unable to have more children” (Young, 2019).

Dismal Statistics about Maternal Healthcare

The statistics about maternal health are heart-breaking:

  • 700 women die every year in childbirth.
  • 50,000 women are injured every year during childbirth.
  • 50% of deaths and severe maternal injuries could be prevented or reduced with better medical care.
  • A typical hospital has a childbirth complication rate of 1.5%.
  • For some hospitals, the rate of childbirth complications is at least twice the national norm, regardless of race and unrelated to whether a patient has insurance.
  • Overall, black mothers are three times as likely to die in childbirth as white mothers.

In addition, the article includes:

  • What are some of the specific maternal health problems?
  • Why is Joint Commission accreditation important?
  • How the maternal safety standards were compiled

Download this article, “New Joint Commission Guidelines Target Poor Maternal Mortality Outcomes,” to learn about the new Joint Commission safety standards for the improvement of maternal and perinatal care, and why it has taken so long for the US to understand the need for them.

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