5 Things Maryland: Virtual primary care, Nursing shortage, Maternal health


Emily Boerger


It seems like the legislative session is a long ways away… Months, even! But if the most important object of the legislative session is the budget, that is a process that starts getting underway now as agencies begin pulling together their budget requests for Gov. Hogan’s consideration in FY 2023. Stay tuned for our reporting on some of those conversations as they develop.

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With help from Emily Boerger

1. Q&A: Dr. Helen Hughes, Johns Hopkins

Dr. Helen Hughes is the Associate Medical Director for Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Office of Telemedicine and the Medical Director of Pediatric Telemedicine for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. In this Q&A, Hughes offers an update on how telemedicine usage has changed in recent months and the challenges facing telemedicine moving forward.

A key challenge in recent months, says Hughes, is the expiration of state waivers which allowed telehealth flexibilities during the pandemic. “That has led to a complicated process of trying to figure out where providers are licensed, which patients they might be able to see, and rescheduling or unfortunately cancelling some visits.” She says the complicated process can limit telemedicine access for those with rare conditions or those located in areas where there aren’t enough local specialty providers.


2. State looks to increase nursing personnel

Gov. Hogan announced last week a series of efforts to increase nursing personnel in the state. MDH issued a notice allowing certain out-of-state nurses to render care in Maryland, and the Maryland Higher Education Commission issued a request to state nursing programs to allow the earliest graduation possible for qualified students.

The news comes amidst what some health officials are describing as the worst nursing shortage in decades. According to the Maryland Nurses Association, 17% of nurses considered leaving the profession prior to COVID-19. That number is now 33%.

3. CareFirst launches virtual primary care practice

Nearly 40% of CareFirst members are without a primary care provider. That’s why earlier this month, CareFirst launched a new virtual-first primary care practice called CloseKnit, which will offer physical health, mental health, and care coordination services. State of Reform caught up with CloseKnit CEO Mary Jane Favazza for a conversation about her hopes for the new platform and how it might impact access and workforce issues.

“There are many folks who would benefit from primary care that aren’t currently accessing it,” says Favazza. “And so we want people to have their primary care clinic in their pocket. And we want that care team to be able to serve a variety of needs.”


4. Two Maryland hospitals among most socially responsible

The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus are among the top 5 most “socially responsible” hospitals in the country, according to a recent study published by the Lown Institute. The study used 54 metrics in its ranking, evaluating categories like pay equity, inclusivity, and cost efficiency.

The two Maryland hospitals were among the less than 2.5% of reviewed hospitals that received “A” grades for equity, value, and outcomes. The Johns Hopkins Hospital was the best-performing hospital that also appeared in the US News and World Report list. About half of the U.S. News & World Report’s top hospitals failed to place in the top third of the Lown Institute’s rankings.


5. Federal funds to support maternal health

The US Department of Health and Human Services recently announced $7.71 million in funds to support maternal health in Maryland. The department awarded $7.51 million to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene through its Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which brings support services directly to families.

Under the Healthy Start Initiative, Baltimore Healthy Start was awarded $124,994 for community-based doulas, and $79,200 for infant health equity to reduce disparities in infant mortality. Data from 2019 shows Maryland with a maternal mortality rate of 25 deaths per 100,000 births, ranking it 22nd in the nation. According to the 2019 Maryland Maternal Morality Review, the mortality rate for Black individuals is 4 times higher than the rate for white individuals.