Driving Statewide Improvement in Perinatal Care
Across the nation, 43 state and multi-state perinatal quality collaboratives (PQCs) are working to improve health outcomes for moms and babies. Comprised of multidisciplinary teams, PQCs work with clinical teams, experts and stakeholders, including patients and families, to advance evidence-informed clinical practices, reduce variation, optimize resources, and address gaps in perinatal care.
Launching and sustaining a PQC (or any quality improvement collaborative) is complex though. It’s not just about identifying best-practices for treatment and care; it’s about spreading those best-practices to people and institutions across the state, many of which have different organizational structures, are balancing different priorities, and are working with different resources.
“No state PQC should feel alone in this work,” says Pat Heinrich, RN, MSN, CLE, NICHQ Executive Project Director for the National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (NNPQC), an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that provides resources and support to state-based PQCs. “By facilitating collaborative learnings, the NNPQC gives states a critical opportunity to share what’s worked for them, and ultimately accelerate national improvements.”
To help PQCs (and other quality improvement collaboratives) benefit from this collaborative learning, we’ve compiled advice states shared on developing and sustaining a PQC. Along with helping emerging PQCs launch their work, these strategies can support existing PQCs searching for inspiration and ideas. And while the advice focuses on perinatal health, these ideas can benefit any quality improvement collaborative seeking to improve care delivery across a state or community.
Three Strategies for Developing a Successful PQC
- Don’t skimp on developing your mission and vision
“We often want to jump right in and start improving clinical practices,” says Barbara O’Brien, MS, RN, who leads the work for the Oklahoma PQC. “It’s important, though, that we step back and take time to develop a formal mission and vision that all stakeholders agree on.”
Without that central guiding light, she explains, future decisions to advance the work can easily get roadblocked. How will you agree on what initiatives to pursue? Where will you get your funding and what will you invest in? Will you have a conference and, if so, how will it be planned and structured? By checking these questions against your agreed upon mission and vision, you can more easily align stakeholders and efficiently move the work forward.
Moreover, a core mission and vision can help your collaborative foster a trusting relationship with the health professionals and hospitals in your state, explains O’Brien. It validates your PQC as a leader they can count on, one with an established goal that consistently guides its actions. Even if the individuals working on the collaborative vary over time, the mission and vision can be trusted to stay the same and inform the work.
Already running a PQC without a shared mission and vision? It’s not too late to step back and have that conversation. Pausing to do that now will spur your PQC to move forward more cohesively and efficiently. Moreover, while your mission and vision should not change through the years, it is important to take an annual look at how you are carrying it out.
- Pursue widespread buy-in
If you’re seeking to improve care delivery across a state (or states), you’re going to need the support and energies of a widespread group of people: doctors and nurses, hospital administrators and lab technologists, to name a few, at care facilities throughout the region. After all, it’s the people working on the ground who will ultimately be responsible for implementing the change.
Offering opportunities for face-to-face interactions can help establish much-needed buy-in, says Charlene Collier, MD, MPH, MHS, the Director of the Mississippi PQC. When possible, collaboratives should allot time and resources for visiting not only individual hospitals but also obstetric private practices and individual practitioners who work in rural communities. Different facilities and different individuals have different attitudes and working norms. Taking the time for in-person meetings (or at least video conferences, using Zoom or another free app) helps ensure that requests to change practices and collect data are informed by an understanding of individual and organizational priorities and constraints.
Finally, if funding allows, hosting a regional meeting or conference provides a venue for connecting with multiple care centers and individuals at once, while also encouraging collaboration and shared enthusiasm across the state.
If you are already running a PQC—especially a long-established one—take time at an upcoming meeting to discuss ways to reach out and fill in your ranks. Reviewing your membership and establishing an outreach plan for new faces is important for continued successful spread of ideas and practices.
- Diversify your funding
Funding is critical for sustainability. And relying on single-source funding, no matter how long it has been available, can be dangerous, says O’Brien. If those sources dry-up or budgets are cut, funding disappears and with it, jobs, dedicated time, and resources. Along with state budgets, both O’Brien and Collier recommend pursuing funding through the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, as well as tracking grant opportunities funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State insurance and malpractice providers can also be an important funding avenue, says Collier. For example, Mississippi’s PQC partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to launch a series of trainings for their network hospitals about implementing Maternal Safety Bundles, a set of evidence-based best practices for improving obstetric hemorrhage and hypertension care. Along with funding the trainings, BCBS updated their policy guidelines to reflect the safety bundles, helping spread best-practices to all network hospitals.
Successful PQCs still have funding challenges and are always on the watch for opportunities to raise the money that their efforts require. As your PQC matures, you might initiate a membership plan, like California does, where organizations pay an annual fee for the benefits the PQC offers. Along with national foundations, local community and family foundations focused on infant health are potential partners.
Remember, says O’Brien, “Stay positive, smile and keep moving forward. Say yes to the opportunities that come your way. Be willing to take that risk. There is no failure—you are going to learn from every experience.”
TRANSCRIPT | Connecting Infant and Maternal Health Outcomes – Prematurity Awareness Month
Our main story this episode highlights he links between maternal and infant health, and the impacts of preterm birth on health outcomes for mothers, birthing people, and babies. Hear from NICHQ VP of Equity and Innovation Dr. Stacy Scott, Ph.D. D, MPA, who shares some equity considerations regarding disparate rates of preterm birth, infant mortality, and maternal mortality. Dr. Zsakeba Henderson, MD, FACOG, NICHQ’s senior health advisor, also connects the impact of maternal health on infant health outcomes while shining a light on the U.S. maternal mortality crisis and current policy initiatives that can help reverse maternal mortality trends.
4 Strategies for Transitioning from Pediatric to Adult Care for People Living with Sickle Cell Disease
Whether transitioning to college or a full-time job, it's a time when young adults are going to be establishing their independence from their nuclear family and taking responsibility for their own needs. For a young person with special healthcare needs such as SCD, the responsibilities are compounded by the additional need to begin transitioning from pediatric to adult care. Read more for four helpful strategies for transitioning from pediatric to adult care for people living with sickle cell disease and other special health conditions.
TRANSCRIPT | Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Transitioning to College, Equity Considerations, and Resource Sharing
Our main story this episode highlights the need for resources for people living with sickle cell disease and strategies for transitioning from pediatric to adult care. We also reflect on National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and hear from NICHQ team member about connecting their personal and professional passion for equity. Thanks for joining us!
For our main story in this episode we are joined by Summer 2023 NICHQ Communications & Digital Strategy interns Amalia Hirschhorn-Martinez and Katie McCormick. They speak with members of the NICHQ team about our upcoming webinar focused on infant safe sleep and breastfeeding messaging and NICHQ’s continued work to ensure health professionals and the communities they serve are supported with the necessary tools and resources to create safe sleeping environments and improve breastfeeding and chestfeeding rates.
Inviting and Engaging Family Partners in Your Work
Patient and family partnerships are an essential element of health equity. By supporting patient and family voices and encouraging space for collaboration, public health professionals can help ensure shared vision and values are at the forefront of determining solutions to improve a community’s health outcomes.
Importance of Engaging Fathers in MCH Initiatives
Evidence demonstrates that fathers play a critical role in children’s health and development, beginning in the prenatal period and continuing through early childhood and adolescence. On this episode of Before Birth & Beyond, NICHQ honors Men's Health Month and Father's Day, both celebrated in June, by sitting down with two Black fatherhood experts to discuss the importance of including fathers in maternal and child health work, policy considerations to improve father engagement, and men's mental health and its impact on outcomes for children and families.