First mother-baby patient safety center underway


The first-ever center dedicated exclusively to reducing unnecessary illness and death among pregnant women and babies is being developed.

The project is being run by the March of Dimes, a non-profit organization that works to end premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality, in partnership with University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas.

The research center hopes to identify sources of patient harm and develop techniques and training to promote a culture of patient safety along the perinatal continuum.

"More than half of all newborn-related errors are preventable, and pregnancy-related errors increase hospital stays by 50 percent," said Dr Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes. 

"The March of Dimes seeks to interrupt this state of affairs and envisions a nationwide network of centers that will develop a reliable culture of safety for pregnant women and babies while reducing costs."

Dr Howse said the new March of Dimes Center on Perinatal Safety (MOD COPS) is modeled on safety practices developed in military and civilian aviation. Key features that promote and sustain an institutional culture of patient safety include enhanced communication, situational awareness, use of checklists, and reduction of systems redundancy.

"Complex events in pregnancy, labor and delivery - like flying an airplane - provide potential for errors at many steps in the system. What we need to do is anticipate and prevent these errors with continuous quality improvement," she noted.

"The March of Dimes plans to form new centers around the country in partnership with other leading medical institutions as its research and successful clinical practices gain national and international recognition." 

MOD COPS will focus its efforts initially around the Joint Commission's perinatal core measures that identify key areas where current practices cause substantial health care and economic burdens. It seeks to reduce elective (medically unnecessary) deliveries before 39 weeks’ gestation; reduce cesarean section deliveries; encourage the use of steroids for women at risk of preterm birth; reduce health care-associated infections in newborns; and encourage exclusive breast milk feeding.

By focusing on these five key areas, the March of Dimes aims to improve care for women and babies throughout the perinatal care continuum, which ranges from preconception through conception, pregnancy, delivery, postpartum and the interconception time frame.

UTHealth, Memorial Hermann Health System, Dr Jennifer Howse, March of Dimes, US