Maternal Health Matters: Tackling Challenges With Health IT

Maternal and child health (MCH) has become a top concern nationwide, particularly in disadvantaged, underserved and rural communities. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the United States is experiencing a maternal health crisis nationwide, as it has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among high-income nations; increasing rates of complications from pregnancy or childbirth; and persistent disparities in such outcomes. Over the last two decades, the number of mothers in the US who have died from pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled, and many others are simply lacking adequate access and time with healthcare providers.

On May 14th, 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of a national strategy, including recommendations developed by the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health, to tackle the nation’s urgent public maternal mental health crisis and improve access to care. The National Strategy to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care goes hand in hand with federal efforts to address women’s maternal health nationwide, consistent with the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis.

Additionally, in December 2022, President Biden signed the Data Mapping to Save Moms' Lives Act, directing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to include publicly available data on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity into the agency's Mapping Broadband Health in America platform. The legislation targets broadband access, as high maternal death rates tend to be more prevalent in both rural and underserved communities. Data mapping can help steer broadband resources in a direction that offers the most support to mothers nationwide. For rural communities, telehealth technologies have been helping pregnant women more efficiently access medical services.

Fortunately, technology is helping to bridge some of the gaps in maternal health services. For example, digital technology tools for maternal health are being used to provide access to care and facilitate patient management, such as to monitor patient-specific health needs. Doctors generally spend around eight minutes or less with patients during in-person visits, and during the perinatal period, women and families often find they need additional time and services. Digital tools can help bridge gaps in accessibility and equity, establishing a continuous stream of communication between patients and healthcare providers.

Some examples of digital solutions that support maternal health include patient portals, mobile health apps, online education tools, wearables, telemedicine and virtual care such as video appointments, text messaging and online messaging platforms, remote patient monitoring devices, solutions that provide on-demand access to health specialists, and health based social media platforms.

When it comes to maternal health equity and addressing community-specific gaps in coverage, additional technology solutions include better access to wearable technologies and personal mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, more affordable mobile coverage and applications and support service platforms that address things like low-literacy.

Taking a multimodal approach to maternal health technology by merging technologies such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring can help identify patients at risk for conditions such as high blood pressure. For example, some states are utilizing artificial intelligence-backed chatbots that support a virtual healthcare environment by sending medical staff with updates on a patient’s personal health data.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released an app for Medicaid-eligible families in need of pregnancy and post-partum support that provides individualized content, access to outside resources such as relevant information on RSV and the flu, and interactive 3D models that help track changes taking place during pregnancy.

In February this year, New Jersey released the New Jersey Report Card of Hospital Maternity Care to help make New Jersey a safe and equitable state for maternal care and child delivery. The report card not only evaluates progress and best practices, but it provides interactive features and valuable information that can help support critical decision-making for mothers and families.

As we continue into fiscal year 2025 and beyond, efforts to end the maternal health crisis will continue to take prioritization nationwide, with emphasis on accessibility, affordability, and equity.

Technology companies in the digital technology space will likely see enormous opportunity. You will be well-equipped for success by emphasizing how your solution can help enhance and streamline patient-to-provider communication, improve overall healthcare accessibility, reduce gaps in service times, and cut patient costs. Companies in the data and analytics space will be well-positioned if they offer data analysis tools and software, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)-backed solutions such as virtual chatbots, and predictive modeling technologies that can help identify and prevent medical conditions.

Furthermore, with the increased reliance on digital health platforms, it is even more important that proper data security and privacy measures are in place — and with the rapid adoption of emerging technologies such as AI, there will be an even greater need to ensure the proper security measures are in place. If you have a cybersecurity solution, emphasize how your solution can safeguard patient health data and protect critical services.

Companies specializing in cloud services will do well by stressing the importance of the cloud’s ability to support effective data management, boost agility and flexibility, and enhance operations in a scalable environment. Visualization tools can also enhance health-based data-driven decision making, an integral component of patient service delivery.

Each SLED health agency and organization will have its own distinct challenges and pain points, so be sure to tailor your messaging to fit the unique needs of the individual end user. Rest assured though, this is an ever-growing area of opportunity, and certainly one that matters.

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About the Author:
Yvonne Maffia is the senior analyst covering state, local and education markets. She applies insights and analysis to purchasing trends to help vendors and partners shorten their sales cycles. Prior to joining TD SYNNEX Public Sector, Yvonne spent 8 years working in state and local government, where she oversaw advisory boards across the State of Florida and served as an analyst to a local politician. Yvonne currently lives in Washington, DC.