The United States is facing a maternal health crisis. The number of women who die giving birth each year has nearly doubled in the last two decades. According to the initiative, Every Woman Counts, these rates stem from issues such as lack of insurance, provider shortages, chronic conditions, lack of comprehensive care, and more.
Maternal mortality is a critical issue in Indiana as well. The most recent maternal mortality report by the Indiana Department of Health, released in late September, shows in 2020, 92 women died during pregnancy or up to a year after giving birth. A leading cause of these deaths are hypertensive disorders occurring anytime during pregnancy and postpartum. These rates have increased by 25% in the last two decades. Most of these women will deliver healthy babies and fully recover. However, some women will experience complications, several of which may be life-threatening to the mother and/or baby. A woman’s condition can progress to severe preeclampsia very quickly.
In an effort to help curb this crisis, Stacey Hummel, manager of the Maternity Care Center at Johnson Memorial Health, has formed a hypertensive task force.
“We identified maternal mortality as a top priority for Johnson Memorial and asked everyone to be at the table,” said Hummel.
The task force was formed in June of 2021—during one of the hardest-hitting times of COVID-19. Hummel’s team worked through significant COVID-19 surges and a hospital-wide cyber-attack, while still accomplishing several wins for maternal health.
One goal of the task force was to ensure everyone was taking accurate blood pressure. Accurate readings speed up the process for patients to receive critical care early on if they are in the beginning stages of hypertension. In just the early phases of research, Hummel’s team found a few simple changes that could be made to ensure the best outcomes.
“We found out that our OB office didn’t have the proper range of cuff sizes, so this allowed us to purchase the right equipment for more accurate readings,” Hummel said. “We wouldn’t have known this if we hadn’t started the task force, and this is an essential first step for every pregnant, soon-to-be mom who walks through our doors.”
The task force also worked to ensure all doctors were using a common standard to collect basic information about each pregnant patient.
“This strategy has assisted the entire team at Johnson Memorial to work as efficiently as possible for expecting moms,” said Hummel.
Johnson Memorial’s commitment to maternal health doesn’t stop at care delivery. The hospital’s IT Department has created computerized order sets, which allow caregivers to log into a portal and see the treatment plan for each patient. Hummel said this makes it a “one-stop-shop” for quality care.
“Everyone deserves the same standard of care when they come in to deliver a baby,” Hummel said. “As my mentor taught me, variance is the enemy of safety.”
With Hummel’s hard-working mindset and an excellent team of trained staff at Johnson Memorial, any goal can be accomplished—and she has some big plans for her team.
“We will soon be starting simulations with the ER staff and the OB unit,” Hummel said. “Teams will be able to come in to run through a scenario and decide the best care plan. Practice is key, and we will continue to do the work needed until we are satisfied and see improved results.”