Seven Virginia hospitals join first-of-its-kind maternal and infant health collaborative

A new initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Women’s Health aims to use in-patient data to address maternal and infant mortality. The HHS Perinatal Improvement Collaborative includes over 200 hospitals across the U.S., including some of Virginia’s most renowned health systems — University of Virginia (UVA) Health, Bon Secours, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, and more.

 

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Participating Virginia hospitals are listed below: 

  • Chesapeake Regional Medical Center (Chesapeake)
  • Riverside Regional Medical Center (Newport News)
  • Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital (Onancock)
  • Southside Regional Medical Center (Petersburg)
  • Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center (Midlothian)
  • Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital (Richmond)
  • UVA Health (Charlottesville)

Participating hospitals will gather data on over 150 measures that help identify racial, ethnic, and geographical health disparities in newborns and birthing people (“Birthing people” is a gender-neutral term which has been used in the Biden Administration’s discussion on Black maternal mortality). Examples of these measures include hypertension, infection rates, and COVID-19-related information.

In October 2020, HHS announced an $8 million contract with Charlotte, North Carolina-based Premier, Inc. to develop the collaborative.  Once the collaborative collects enough data, it “will implement and analyze evidence-based interventions to drive clinical quality improvement and advance health equity.” 

 

Image: Office of Management and Budget

 

However, data collection in the commonwealth will be limited. Most of the participating hospitals are based in or near Richmond or the Hampton Roads areas, with the exception of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital on the Eastern shore and UVA Health in Charlottesville. For Virginia Rural Health Association Executive Director Beth O’Connor, maternal health is a particular concern in the state’s non-metropolitan areas. In a previous conversation with State of Reform, she said: 

“We have a number of concerns about the health disparities that we see in our rural communities, on many levels. Lack of access to facilities of providers, especially specialists and maternal health.”

Maternal health advocates have brought up other solutions for Virginia, such as working with policymakers to invest in more community-based health centers, implicit bias training for providers, and reevaluating payment models for maternal and infant care. 

However, as Del. Emily Brewer (R – Smithfield) pointed out in a recent Joint Commission on Healthcare meeting, without data, she was “not seeing enough here to help me make an informed decision if it ever came to us, to be able to understand [maternal health] more clearly.”

As hospitals begin collecting maternal and infant health data for this initiative, over 20 clinicians and stakeholders — including partners from advocacy coalition MoMMA’s Voices, will serve as an advisory panel. See the full list of hospitals and more information on the initiative here.