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Standardized Protocols Needed To Improve Health Outcomes Related To Pregnancy Complications

(BPT) - The rates of maternal mortality and preterm birth continue to rise dramatically in the United States. According to the CDC and March of Dimes, more than 700 women die of pregnancy-related causes in the U.S. every year, and more than 1,000 babies are born prematurely every day. It's impossible to point to one specific cause for these serious issues, particularly because of how segmented our healthcare system is. But by standardizing protocols across the U.S. healthcare system, advocates say we could decrease harm and improve care for women and their unborn babies.

While "healthcare" is often discussed as a monolith, a single system in need of repair, it's actually a fractured industry composed of thousands of healthcare providers, insurance companies and individual healthcare professionals. When it comes to actual patient care, these divisions result in wide variations across state lines, between healthcare provider networks, and even between individual hospitals and clinics. Experts note that this lack of standardized care, particularly for pregnant women and their unborn babies, often leads to missed opportunities for improved outcomes.

Take, for example, the case of fetal fibronectin (fFN) testing, which is highly effective in helping doctors rule out whether a woman with symptoms of preterm labor is really at risk for giving birth prematurely. A negative fFN test means there is a less than 1 percent chance of a premature birth happening in the next 14 days. But despite its 20 years of proven effectiveness, it remains underutilized. A recent study found that only 12 percent of women who went to the hospital with symptoms of preterm labor received an fFN test as part of their triage assessment.

The result? Women were admitted to the hospital unnecessarily, using critical resources and incurring large medical expenses. Others were sent home when they should have been hospitalized. In fact, a full 20 percent of women in the study who...Read More

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