Maternal health solutions to reduce maternal mortality

Closing the gap in maternal health with digital technology

Maternal mortality rates are rising

Maternal mortality rates in the United States are among the highest in the industrialized world. Every year, people in the United States die of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate among nations with similar levels of income. 

Maternal mortality statistics in the United States have actually worsened over the past 20 years, even as rates among peer nations have generally improved. In addition, each year, tens of thousands of birthing people experience severe morbidity — unintended consequences of pregnancy that result in life-altering health challenges, such as severe heart issues, hemorrhages, seizures, and blood infections.

Spotlight on the importance of high-quality maternal health

This maternal health crisis is particularly devastating for Black and Native American women and women in rural communities. 

Despite significant improvements in maternal mortality and infant health in America, Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women, and Native American women are more than twice as likely, regardless of their income or education. Pregnant women who live in rural communities are about 60% more likely to die before, during, or following birth than women in urban communities.

On December 7, 2021, on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration, Vice President Harris issued a nationwide Call to Action to improve health outcomes for parents and infants in the United States.

Get Well partner CommonSpirit Health is an initial external contributor to the White House effort. CommonSpirit Health leverages GetWell Docent, a text-based patient navigation solution that pairs virtual care guides with patients for personalized care and support to improve length of stay and preterm birth outcomes.

Improve maternal health outcomes and health equity

For traditionally underserved populations, there is no single more impactful thing we can do to change the trajectory of a young person’s life than improve perinatal health. Individuals on Medicaid and other underserved populations often face numerous challenges throughout their healthcare experience. Understanding needs, proactively supporting patients, and identifying ways to quickly address hurdles can make an impact in terms of engagement, activation, and outcomes.

Perhaps at no time is it more important for a person to be able to access and understand health information and their health journey than when they are expecting a child. This information should be intuitive and convenient. To reduce barriers to access, healthcare organizations must:

Engage broadly

To ensure the greatest number of people can benefit from a digital technology solution, healthcare organizations should use the most common channel of communication in a community. In most instances, SMS text messaging, which requires no data plan or Wi-Fi connection, is accessible to the greatest number of people. Today, nearly all consumers — 97% — own a cell phone; 85% of those phones are smartphones. 

Focus on empathy

There is a history of institutional racism and medical mistreatment of communities of color and underserved populations with roots more than 2,500 years old, according to a study in the Journal of the National Medical Association. That’s why it’s crucial to approach any opportunity to engage people from a position of understanding.

Implement mobile first, but not singularly

While a mobile-first strategy employing digital technology is an important piece, it alone cannot effectively close health equity and engagement gaps. Adding a human element through community-based virtual care guides who are from and familiar with the communities an organization serves can better help direct patients through their health journeys and more effectively build trust.

Get Well supports cross-continuum, personalized digital engagement

Virtual care navigation

Get Well’s digital patient navigation solution, GetWell Docent, helps organizations improve maternal health by engaging with birthing people and providing personalized outreach. This outreach employs both artificial intelligence-driven SMS text messaging and the support of virtual human patient guides who supplement bi-directional communication with users. This digital engagement provides important information about a person’s care experience, offering guidance across the full patient journey. Through both automated and human touch points, Get Well is able to assess patients for clinical risk factors and reach out to care teams as necessary or make referrals to social services.

GetWell Docent uses a blend of technology and virtual care guides hired from within the communities they serve to build trust, engagement, and local support. This helps to identify barriers to care at the individual level, and then helps personalize that support so people are getting connected to the right healthcare and community resources to address their own needs.

Digital care management

Get Well’s digital technology also supports the journey into parenthood with mental health screenings, local resources, lactation coordination, and reinforcement of pediatric care.

GetWell Loop engages and supports patients before their hospital stay. A 32-week prenatal Loop helps to prepare people for the inpatient birthing experience, discussing what is expected during each trimester and providing information on physical changes, fetal growth and development, nutrition needs, birth planning, and pain management.

A post-delivery Loop guides patients through discharge instructions and helps ensure patients comprehend their treatment plan and that they comply with instructions, covering topics including Caesarean section, vaginal delivery, and pre-eclampsia.

This digital care management helps at the time when it is most needed and is accessible on a device that is familiar, using plain language and accessible information.

Recommended resources

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Addressing the maternal health crisis through health technology

The health and well-being of people during pregnancy, infants, and children will determine the health of the next generation. But how can health systems and policy makers best support these needs?

Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

The White House has spotlighted Get Well partner, CommonSpirit Health, which is expanding its use of GetWell Docent, a text-based patient navigation solution to improve maternal health.

A conversation with CommonSpirit Health about equity in healthcare

Learn how hospitals and health systems can use digital engagement technology to improve care quality and access to all.

Content on this page regarding the White House Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity is derived from “FACT SHEET: Vice President Kamala Harris Announces Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity”, used under CC BY 3.0 U.S.