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Jewish Healthcare Foundation Gives $20,000 Award for Excellence in Maternity Care

Members of the winning team at Penn Medicine’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Twenty-nine graduate students and young professionals representing 17 healthcare disciplines participated in the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's (JHF) Patient Safety Fellowship and awarded $20,000 to Penn Medicine's Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, recognizing their excellence in improving maternal care and addressing racial disparities. Each summer JHF organizes the Patient Safety Fellowship to apply innovative methods and strategies in implementation science, team-based problem-solving, and continuous quality improvement for healthcare settings. This year's focus was excellence in reducing the risk of maternal mortality, offering comprehensive maternity care, and in taking a broad view of "successful" pregnancy.

The U.S. has three times more maternal deaths than other developed countries. In recognition of this tragic reality, JHF studies what other countries offer related to pregnancy and postpartum care. The objective is recognizing and rewarding best practices here in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania that provide comprehensive maternity care.

To acknowledge the current efforts in Pennsylvania, JHF identified five leading birthing centers that displayed comprehensive support for both mom and baby. The finalists were Allegheny Health Network's West Penn Hospital, Geisinger Health System in Danville, Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Penn Medicine's Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. These sites were selected because they demonstrated that a successful pregnancy should be defined beyond a mother giving birth to a healthy baby. Pregnancy and the months after birth are a critical time for mothers and babies. When both fare well, lifetimes of health and fulfilment likely lay ahead. When either or both fares poorly, they are more likely to experience suffering, distress, and financial loss. The best maternity care models in the United States and abroad recognize that comprehensive care, from prenatal to postpartum, with wide-ranging physical and emotional family supports are crucial for healthy beginnings. 

Fellows discussed their experiences with the fellowship during the final session.

During the Fellowship, Fellows interviewed and researched the participating sites. The finalists offered such enhancements as new interventions for hypertension, programs for integrating midwives, comprehensive care services for opioid use disorder-affected mothers, staff-lead quality improvement projects, and patient and family engagement. The findings were discussed, shared, and voted on during the Patient Safety Fellowship finale. As a result, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was selected for the Patient Safety Fellowship Award for Perinatal Care.

Penn Medicine was selected for its overall comprehensive, collaborative, and quality improvement approach to maternal care. At the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the team has successfully implemented innovative programs like Mothers MATTER, a compassionate care program for pregnant and postpartum women impacted by opioid dependence; and Heart Safe Motherhood, a text-based intervention for hypertension, which is the biggest cause of maternal mortality and poor health. Penn Medicine also assembles multidisciplinary committees comprised of staff at all levels who are focused on quality improvement and safety, as well as a Health Equity Task Force which addresses the impact of racial and implicit bias and social determinants of health.

Pennsylvania has taken active steps to improve maternal care and reduce maternal mortality including establishing Pennsylvania's Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) and the Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative (PA PQC). Administered by JHF and launched with the support of Governor Tom Wolf, the PA PQC consists of 56 birth sites and neonatal intensive care units and 11 health plans that are identifying processes to improve and quickly adopting best practices.

"Our Fellows were given the unique opportunity to learn from some of the best maternal health practitioners in Pennsylvania, and we were impressed to see improvements being made by all of the participating systems," said JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD. "The Perinatal Quality Collaborative presents a powerful opportunity for these systems to share with one another and work toward making Pennsylvania one of the best places in the country to have a child."

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