The Women and Infants Center at HSHS St. Elizbeth’s Hospital has been recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois with a Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care designation, as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.
Racial and ethnic disparities are persistent and widespread across maternal healthcare, primarily driven by socioeconomic status, geographic location, and implicit provider bias. Compared to similarly developed countries such as Canada, Germany, and Australia, the United State has the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR), at approximately 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, with the MMR steadily increasing since 2000. According to the CDC, non-Hispanic Black women are two to three times more likely to die from preventable or treatable pregnancy-related complications compared to white women.
To help address these gaps in care and to help ensure the better health of mothers, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association enhanced its quality evaluation for the Maternity Care program to address key factors driving the United States’ maternal health crisis such as preventable or treatable pregnancy-related conditions, high utilization of Caesarean sections, and racial and ethnic disparities in maternal healthcare. In 2018, facilities that received designations under the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program cared for more than 40 percent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield commercially insured women giving birth across the country.
“St. Elizabeth’s is pleased to receive this Blue Distinction Center designation for quality for our maternity services,” said Deb Meidel, RN, BSN, nurse manager of the Women and Infants Center. “It shows that when people choose to deliver at St. Elizabeth’s, they are making the right choice for excellent, compassionate care. We continue to raise the bar in our facility on behalf of all patients to continue providing quality care.”
Meidel added, “Being recognized for our quality shows that our staff are experienced and dedicated to delivering excellent care to our community.”
In 2020, the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care Program was expanded beyond traditional outcome measures to include assessments of internal quality improvement, data collection and dissemination, and internal protocols that better address clinical quality and equity issues in maternity care. New in the evaluation cycle, facilities must collect race ethnicity data, have a maternal quality improvement program, commence drills and simulations for adverse events, and have dedicated protocols and procedures for the management of hypertension and hemorrhage. In addition, they must meet clinical outcome metrics at a higher standard than required previously. Specifically, the rate for low risk first time cesarean sections (NTSV c-section rate, PC-02) has been aligned with the revised Healthy People 2020 goals. Facilities eligible for the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity care show statistically significant differences in key clinical outcomes compared to their peers.
“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is committed to working with providers to help improve the care of mothers and their infant children and is proud to offer this important recognition,” said Derek Robinson, MD, MBA, FACEP, CHCQM, chief medical officer, BCBSIL. “It’s one of the ways we’re partnering with members, employers, providers and communities to help improve health equity.”
Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacement, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery, and transplants, while encouraging healthcare professionals to improve the care they deliver. Research shows that, compared to other providers, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.