Beginning in July 2020, The Joint Commission will implement two new standards to improve the quality and safety of perinatal care. The new standards being implemented require processes and procedures to be established for the care of women with maternal hemorrhage, severe hypertension and preeclampsia. Even though these requirements go into effect next year for all Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, UF Health has already begun implementing these procedures to ensure safe, high-quality patient care.
Sharon Byun, M.D., an associate professor and residency program director in the UF College of Medicine’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, is committed to adhering to regulatory standards and patient safety. She has served as the physician director of quality for the department for 10 years.
“We’ve been working on improvements regarding these measures for several years through ongoing, continuous quality improvement aimed at reducing the likelihood of patient harm due to these conditions,” Byun said.
With the support of leadership and the statewide affiliation with the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative, UF Health has seen a decline in maternal complications due to hemorrhage and hypertensive conditions. These perinatal safety measures include early recognition and treatment of these conditions, and patient and provider educational awareness.
The UF Health obstetrics and gynecology team has implemented initiatives that directly relate to the new standards that go into effect in 2020. These practices include prioritizing patient safety and education by performing obstetric hemorrhage risk assessments on admission, and providing educational materials about preeclampsia when discharging from triage, antepartum and the postpartum units. Additionally, labor and delivery and the postpartum units are equipped with hemorrhage carts to ensure quick emergency response if necessary.
The department also prioritizes staff education and training to ensure patient safety and quality care. This training includes obstetric emergency simulation drills and educational programs on the team’s procedures for cases of hemorrhage, preeclampsia and severe hypertension.
“Implementation of any initiative requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, but the overall goal is to reduce complications and make obstetric care safer for all women,” Byun said.
More public attention is being called to safe maternal care, specifically reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities in maternal outcomes. About 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy-related deaths, and the risk of mortality is three to four times higher for black women.
Allyson Felix, the most decorated U.S. Olympic track and field athlete, recently testified before the House of Representatives to shed light on these issues and her personal experience with preeclampsia. Serena Williams, world-renowned professional tennis player, also serves as a strong advocate for pregnancy-related medical issues after experiencing them herself.
“The care of women can’t be improved if we don’t have people talking about these issues,” Byun said. “Raising public awareness, improving access to safe care and educating patients on these risks are all imperative to providing safe health care for every woman.”