I’ve had the privilege of caring for women as an OB-GYN for the past 25 years. Along the way, I’ve seen the total care of women become more fragmented. I’ve spoken with many of my colleagues in this space who also bear witness to women’s health and improved delivery models not receiving the prominence they deserve in our industry.
We’re now seeing this oversight manifest in the health of women today. America’s increasing rate of maternal mortality is disturbing when compared to other similarly developed countries. Data shows that, per 100,000 births, 26 mothers pass away. That rate is nearly seven-times higher than Finland. In fact, one-third of maternal mortality causes occur after delivery. Our nation’s lack of support for “fourth trimester” postpartum care is an example of the consequences of this fragmented delivery model.
This complex problem is, in some ways, driven by fee-for-service models that pay for a specified number of appointments which usually includes one visit six weeks after a vaginal delivery. To reduce the maternal mortality rate, we will have to monitor new mothers more closely after delivery. How do we inject an approach that prioritizes quality over quantity to ensure the best health for the women we care for?
We’ve seen the creation of many value-based care models in the primary care space that ask doctors to make a significant shift. Value-based care was touted as the “Next Big Thing” in healthcare yet, so far, it has yet to meet those high expectations. This paradigm-shifting approach proved to be challenging for many independent providers as it called for nothing short of an overhaul.
Trying to adopt this approach is a hurdle that many of my colleagues are not willing to face for fear of taking on more burden than they are prepared to manage. But the transformation to value affords us the opportunity to re-evaluate everything we do in women’s health and ask ourselves how we can make it better. In doing so, we can use new technology and value-based care principles to meet the critical needs of our patients. For women’s health providers, one area of need is maternity care, with a specific focus on trying to reduce the above-mentioned maternal mortality rate.
Enter UnitedHealthcare. We have recently embarked on a journey to improve maternity care by partnering with United on a reimbursement model that pays doctors for higher quality care and better outcomes. This allows a provider group to use new technology and innovation to rethink each step of our care, searching for ways to improve it. It recognizes what we all know: Better outcomes are more cost-effective. Investing in closer monitoring of mothers in the postpartum period will reduce maternal mortality and total cost. This alignment means that the mothers we care for can experience the maternal episode of care that they deserve.
Janice Huckaby, the SVP and regional chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, recently said: “Value-based care programs such as this help improve clinical quality, patient safety and satisfaction, and care coordination among physicians, with the goal of reducing costs.” I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t be more excited about this partnership and truly transformative venture.