Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis through Health Technology

December 7, 2021, marked the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action, a nationwide Call to Action by the Biden-Harris Administration to both public and private sectors to help improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States.

The maternal health crisis is especially pronounced in the United States, which has the highest maternal mortality rate of any wealthy nation. These statistics have in fact worsened over the past two decades, despite general global improvements. And pregnant people aren’t all impacted equally, with Black, Native American, and women living in rural areas all more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white or urban counterparts.

With the newly announced commitments from the White House, meant to support safe pregnancies and childbirth while reducing complications and mortality in the first year following birth, a number of initiatives have already come to the forefront, representing the best of what could be. Digital technology has a pivotal role to play in this area. 

Using digital health technology in support of maternal health

The health and well-being of mothers, infants, and children will determine the health of the next generation. But how can health systems and policymakers best support these needs?

The White House briefing on the Initial External Contributions In Response to Vice President Kamala Harris’s Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity highlighted Get Well’s Docent Health text-based patient navigation solution, in partnership with CommonSpirit Health, as a key component of the health system’s efforts to improve length of stay and preterm birth outcomes.

Get Well’s Docent Health solution empowers patients by pairing them with virtual care navigators over an AI-powered text messaging platform, offering centralized, human, and digital touchpoints throughout their care journey. 

This kind of personalized patient engagement can be a critical way for health systems to engage pregnant people and their support networks. For example, leveraging social determinants of health (SDOH) data to address health inequities can allow health systems to provide resources for individual patients according to their own specific needs. To understand this, however, it is important to first understand how SDOH inform and contribute to health equities and inequities.

Promoting comprehensive health equity for all

As emphasized in the White House briefing, in the United States, there are wide gaps in the quality of maternal health between racial and ethnic groups. These outcomes drive home the importance of improving health equity across the entire healthcare industry.

But what is health equity and why does it matter? Essentially, health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of their social position in the community.

Factors that contribute to health inequities are social determinants of health, such as:

  • Experiences with racism
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Access to healthcare
  • Education level 

Technology offers one possible way to improve equity in healthcare. Get Well’s Docent Health solution is augmented with community-based navigation services. Personalized patient activation provides centralized, human, and digital touchpoints to patients, ensuring they have access to the resources they need, when they need them.

By using technology as an extension of the care team and adding a human touchpoint, health systems can better reach and support underserved populations, and provide digital outreach every step of the way.

Getting ahead of a changing healthcare landscape

There are also policy changes being proposed as part of the White House’s Call to Action, and providers may need to adjust to changing regulations and requirements.

As the Biden-Harris Administration looks to invest more than $3 billion in new maternal health funding, digital technology that scales the reach of the existing care team while expanding the ability of a hospital or health system to provide equitable care for all is a good investment for healthcare organizations.

Other top priorities of the Administration include diversifying the perinatal workforce, improving data collection and risk monitoring, and addressing the social factors that impact maternal health outcomes. By relying on technology that helps keep these priorities in mind, organizations will be well positioned to lead in a changing healthcare landscape.

The bottom line

Here at Get Well, we’ve seen firsthand how the power of human empathy and expertise combined with the smart use of digital health technologies can bring about real and measurable change. 

The Call to Action from the Biden-Harris Administration to help improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States is a strong step toward increasing health equity and boosting maternal health nationwide.