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Push for Real Changes in our in-hospital Maternity Services

The average consumer may not know what could possibly be helpful in exacting REAL change in our hospital maternity care. I am certainly no expert in this field and would welcome additions or corrections to what I say here….. but I want to offer a little perspective from the inside. Maybe this will help somewhere.

I am a Birth and Breastfeeding Junkie and I am proud. I don’t care if someone recently didn’t like that nomenclature….. That’s what I call myself and how I relate to other like minded individuals. I have a need to know what’s going on in that world.  We junkies read and discuss all the current evidence, all the latest recommendations from the WHO, NIH, CIMS, ICAN, ACOG, AAP, AWHONN, ILCA….. and so many more. We love all birth stories and learn from each other. We educate ourselves. We STAY current. We want informed decisions. We want options. We want this type of evidence-based care available where we live. We advocate for those individuals who may not even know there may be another choice. We want to see the women of America have access to respectful quality services everywhere!

Ok –> that said…. When I see new evidence, research or new recommendations; what I have done over the years to offer up any proposal for process improvement or care delivery change including whatever may be needed to implement these changes… is to collect resources, develop a policy or plan and present to docs, manager and staff. The response is usually positive. Sometimes I get a lot of “smile and nod” and “please hurry up I have other things to do I’m not really listening”…. but mostly positive. Sometimes it’s only positive in that “My you’ve done a lot of research..and Good Job!”  instead of–Yes let’s do this! The changes are not always adopted and there isn’t a total “Buy-In” from everyone to make it a successful total change in practice. Eventually and unfortunately, because these things aren’t monitored, many practitioners go back to their own comfort zone of past [outdated] practices. Arrghh

Project poster inservice example

There must be a better way.

I was sitting in a Professional Practice Committee meeting a few weeks ago listening to a mandatory (did I say Mandatory?) action plan presentation by the Director of Patient Relations/ Patient Satisfaction when it hit me how there may be more avenues for REAL change driven by the consumer than those of us in the trenches. All of the directors (suits) were there and were required to come up with unit-specific mandatory action plans to improve patient satisfaction and positive perceptions of their hospital experience.

She was presenting an action plan based on the latest HCAHPS report.

What is HCAHPS?? Maybe you know- maybe you don’t. Skip over this if you already know.

“The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care. HCAHPS (pronounced “H-caps”), also known as the CAHPS Hospital Survey, is a survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience. While many hospitals have collected information on patient satisfaction for their own internal use, until HCAHPS there was no national standard for collecting and publicly reporting information about patient experience of care that allowed valid comparisons to be made across hospitals locally, regionally and nationally.

Three broad goals have shaped HCAHPS.

  • First,the survey is designed to produce data about patients’ perspectives of care that allow objective and meaningful comparisons of hospitals on topics that are important to consumers.
  • Second, public reporting of the survey results creates new incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care.
  • Third, public reporting serves to enhance accountability in health care by increasing transparency of the quality of hospital care provided in return for the public investment.

With these goals in mind, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the HCAHPS Project Team have taken substantial steps to assure that the survey is credible, useful, and practical.” HCAHPS fact Sheet 2010

The reason hospitals are taking these results so seriously is that.. well… I’d like to say they ONLY care about the patient, but they are a business and it comes down to money in reality.


If a hospital scores fall below a certain number in patient satisfaction… they can lose like 3% of Medicare Reimbursement. That adds up to a lot of money really. You may think that doesn’t apply to Maternity Services but it does, ultimately, because that survey goes out to all adult inpatients. If the scores for satisfaction are low for obstetrics, it can throw off everything, and affect the reimbursement to the facility. That, in turn, can affect how much money is available for overall improvements.

Medicare has also started to cut reimbursement to cover the costs of “preventable” conditions, mistakes and infections resulting from a hospital stay in 2009. That is older news so you may already know about that.

The thing is– what the big two Medicare and Medicaid… [The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)] often set the bar and other insurance companies follow in the private sector. The 2009 National Health Insurer Report Card may give you more information about what is or is not paid. I don’t know much more about that.

HCAHPS is the first I’ve heard of actual patient satisfaction scores steering reimbursement which is transparent and publicly reported. I have heard many pt satisfaction reports but they were never given this much attention. At least in my hospital.. Perhaps I’ve been too much of a Birth Junkie to notice. 🙂

The other big catalyst for positive change is the new JCAHO Perinatal Core Measure Set. The MotherBaby Summit website has an excellent review of these 5 elements, explains them and provides further references.

There are two new employees who only work on JCAHO compliance and data collection. They are looking at the PC-05 Exclusive Breastmilk Feeding numbers and are not happy…. Well — neither am I !!  I have been trying to do something about that particular issue since 1988 !  Since these are now factors for regulatory compliance as well as patient satisfaction… Now we are going to do something. I am pleased to announce that we are forming a Breastfeeding Task Force!! YAY! We also have a new Pediatric Dept Chair who is a no bullshit we are going to do it kind of guy… so YAY!

Bottom line: The hospital is sitting up and seriously taking notice about the consumers opinion AND how regulatory agencies are now monitoring things have never been monitored before.

  • Action plans are being developed to comply
  • The consumer has more of a voice than ever before

Here’s what you can do

Before the hospital:

  • Have a prenatal interview with your provider… ASK : Do they have current evidence based practices/protocols in place ….. do their standard orders reflect the most current evidence based guidelines and standards of care…. do the dept members all follow these standards. Do the nurses actually follow these orders….
  • Do the same with your pediatric provider
  • If you are not happy with the provider and choose NOT to use them, make sure they know exactly WHY… what were the points which caused you not to choose them.
  • Have a birth plan and discuss it with all providers, nurses and even mail it to the manager where you will deliver. Ask your manager to please make sure your wishes are communicated with the staff.
  • Use words like RESPECT, SATISFACTION, Patient RESPONSE Time JCAHO Core measures.
  • Ask for numbers when you have your interviews.. for instance..what are your CS rates? VBAC rates? What are exclusive breastfeeding rates? If they don’t know, ASK for the name of a hospital person who can help you get that information. I am sure they have the numbers.

In the Hospital:

  • Get the names of those individuals/ midwives/ doctors/ nurses/ etc who were good and those who were poor caregivers in your opinion. Write them down somewhere and why. Specifics help.
  • If you don’t feel your wishes are being honored or disrespected, ASK to speak to a patient representative. There is most likely somebody on hospital staff who has that role and can assist you. Use the words Satisfaction, Respect or what is relevant etc…
  • Ask for options if they are not discussed. Don’t rely on a Birth Plan you made weeks or months ago to be always remembered by everyone. Even if it’s right with your records. Different options may be available that weren’t before. For instance, We recently installed telemetry fetal monitoring allowing for increased mobility. If somebody asked a while ago, we did not have that option. You may have to repeat yourself… esp in a very busy Labor&Delivery or Mother/Baby unit. Sorry. That’s the way it is sometimes. It can get crazy but you are just as important as anyone!

After You Go Home:

  • You will be very busy with your baby and good or bad… your individual experience will be a memory that could fade over time. We still need to hear what you have to say IN WRITING whenever possible.
  • Please Fill out your survey –> it may be long but most are a multiple choice and allow for a write in comment section. Put in the names of the good and the bad!!  Please do it.. then actually mail it
  • Please make written comments. Include names. Specifics help.
  • Please Make Us Accountable. Write a letter to administration (Head of unit, Head of nursing or Head of hospital) include specifics. They HAVE to personally answer to this type of thing first! They get this info long before the surveys. Write for the good or the bad parts of your experience.  Including if you make suggestions. It may be monitored or tracked how many times they receive a comment about a certain issue. Definitely tracked for negatives– especially for specific individuals.
  • Please also write a letter to the Head of OB or Pediatrics Departments and let them know who else you sent the letter to. Include everything from above.
  • If you are certain what you experienced was NOT evidenced based medicine or care…. PLEASE mention exactly what you know.


Thanks for reading this, I hope somebody out there takes the time to give the needed feedback which will help mold and improve our care.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. There is also The Birth Survey which acts as a patient satisfaction survey as well. Facilities and providers can see it as a marketing tool (when they have satisfied patients, they will attract more patients) but also a detailed way to see how and where improvements or changes are needed.

    Also, in my experience, writing a complaint to the hospital can facilitate getting your concerns heard. In my case, I wrote the complaint, a review board was called and from all reports I’ve heard, a number of changes for the better occurred after that. I can’t help but think that my complaint had something to do with it.

    February 11, 2011
    • StorkStories #

      AWESOME ! Probably was very instrumental in those changes.. I think all to often, good or bad, people talk or complain more to friends & family rather than to take the time to fill out any type of survey or give any feedback in writing to the people who can actually act your comments. Imagine how things could be if more individuals spoke up! Thanks

      February 11, 2011
  2. Great post! It’s sad, but true that hospitals will respond better when they hear a complaint from a consumer (or customer) than when they read new evidence. I’m so glad you’ve posted this, because you give practical ways that everyday moms can make a difference in maternity services.
    I’ve wondered how I could somehow be involved to bring about improvements in maternity serices, having not actually had a hospital birth. Have you had any experience with CIMS (Coalition for Improving Maternity Services)? I have really only heard of them a little bit and don’t know much about them, but it seems as though that could be another resource.

    February 16, 2011
  3. I happened on your blog and am delighted to find this post. You have some excellent suggestions. I am adding your blog to my favorites, I am a labor/delivery, mother/baby nurse with many of the same concerns.

    February 28, 2011

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