There’s a lot of good reasons to avoid making predictions about healthcare in 2023 — a volatile economy, a shift of power in Congress, the uncertain future of traditional healthcare infrastructures, just to name a few.
But while predictions may be uncertain, priorities should not be. The data is very clear about where maternal health stakeholders should be focusing their energies and investments in the new year, regardless of an uncertain landscape.
In 2022, new and emerging research highlighted again and again the importance of prioritizing mental health, hypertensive risk, health equity and healthcare access for maternal populations.
Women of reproductive age reported the highest rates of mental health issues to date.
According to a study from the KFF, self-reported mental health issues have risen across the board, but the spike was sharpest in women of reproductive age (1). These results affirmed previous findings demonstrating a rise in maternal mental health issues during the pandemic, as well as a CDC report confirming that mental health complications are the highest contributors to maternal mortality rates (2).
The same CDC report stated that 80% of those deaths are preventable, representing an immense opportunity for stakeholders to improve outcomes for mothers. While many digital mental health solutions are not as far along the adoption curve as others, these statistics and studies should accelerate implementation of such tools in the new year.
Babyscripts addresses the problem with tech that can deliver mental health screenings directly to the patient at their convenience and communicate data back to the provider and health plan, facilitating better care management and support. If a maternity patient is already using technology to monitor other parts of her care, such as blood pressure or weight management, there is a much higher likelihood of compliance.
Women having babies now are about twice as likely to develop hypertension in pregnancy as their mothers.
Hypertension has become an increasingly problematic issue for pregnant and postpartum mothers; and while typically more prevalent in geriatric pregnancies, new research shows that after taking age into account, women having babies now are about twice as likely to develop hypertension in pregnancy than women from the baby boom generation, which is further tied to a generational decline in heart health (3).
A different study found that 1 out of 10 women who developed hypertension as a result of pregnancy might not experience it until more than six weeks after childbirth, the typical end of standard postpartum care (4).
These findings contribute to the opinion held by many industry leaders that remote monitoring of blood pressure should be the standard of care for pregnant and postpartum mothers, well beyond the 6-week follow-up appointment required for postpartum care.
Babyscripts’ blood pressure solution enables women to tightly manage and monitor their blood pressure from home, with data communicated directly back to their provider to facilitate interventions, such as delivery or a medication regimen. Additionally, the educational resources delivered through Babyscripts myJourney support women pursuing lifestyle habits that can decrease risk, such as balanced eating and maintenance of a certain BMI, and develop habits for monitoring their health that will have long term positive effects.
Access to maternity care is decreasing in the parts of the U.S. that need it the most.
In 2022, the March of Dimes reported a decline in access to maternity care for women across the country, largely affecting areas inhabited by low-income and minority people (5). According to the report, thirty-six percent of U.S. counties fit the designation of “maternity care desert,” meaning they have no obstetric hospitals or birth centers and no obstetric providers.
Problems of access have only gotten worse in the intervening time, with hospitals shuttering maternity wards (or closing altogether) due to financial burdens, physician and staffing shortages, and lack of enough births to meet safety standards. While hospitals’ financial health may improve over the next year, there is no immediate solution for the labor problem or decreased utilization of labor and delivery services — arguably, these issues will persist if not worsen.
Babyscripts delivers screening tools within the myJourney app to better identify an expectant mother’s behavioral health and social determinants, to facilitate care coordination between provider and insurer. The ability to reduce in-person visits through Babyscripts improves access for patients to whom the traditional 12-14 visit schedule is an undue burden, whether for geographic or socio-economic reasons. Remote patient monitoring can help maintain satisfaction for those who worry that less in-person care equals lower quality care.
While external factors such as policy and economics necessarily have an effect on the types, availability, and adoption of maternal health solutions, a feasible path toward better outcomes will start by addressing these preventable contributors.
1. KFF, Access and Coverage for Mental Health Care: Findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey
2. CDC, Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data from Maternal Mortality Review Committees in 36 US States, 2017–2019
3. Natalie A. Cameron et al, Association of Birth Year of Pregnant Individuals With Trends in Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy in the United States, 1995-2019. JAMA.
4. Samantha E. Parker, et al, De Novo Postpartum Hypertension: Incidence and Risk Factors at a Safety-Net Hospital. Hypertension
5. March of Dimes, Nowhere To Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S. (2022 Report)