A national model for a more pleasant and communicative labor and delivery process is up and running at three New Jersey hospitals and a birthing center.

Experts hope the approach, which is expected to expand its reach over the coming years throughout the state, results in more positive patient experiences and a decrease in the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity.

New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, which is leading the initiative in the state along with Ariadne Labs, says the evidence-based TeamBirth model is setting a new bar for the care and services provided by hospitals and other medical facilities.

The main feature is the concept of shared decision-making — a shared whiteboard in the labor room, for example, featuring the patient's preferences, plan of care, and the status of the birth. At the same time, to make sure everyone's on the same page, the care team conducts regular "huddles" with the patient.

“At the Quality Institute, we have long worked to improve maternal infant outcomes,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO. “Bringing TeamBirth to New Jersey advances this critical mission by strengthening communication between providers and patients. We know that patients who are empowered to make decisions about their care that better reflect their personal preferences often experience more favorable outcomes.”

By the end of 2022, TeamBirth is expected to be in place at 70 hospitals across the country. The New Jersey launch includes two RWJBarnabas Health properties — Monmouth Medical Center and Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center — as well as Virtua Voorhees Hospital and Virtua Health's Midwifery Birth and Wellness Center.

"This is something that we are going to hard wire into all of our hospitals," said Suzanne Spernal, vice president of women's services for RWJBarnabas Health.

While a direct correlation can't be made between TeamBirth implementation and maternal mortality/morbidity statistics, Spernal said, implementation has been proven to improve patient experience scores and collaboration among health care teams, and reduce C-section rates.

According to New Jersey Department of Health data, pregnancy-related deaths in the state increased from 12.8 per 100,000 live births, to 15 per 100,000 live births, between 2011-2013 and 2014-2016. Black women have approximately seven times more pregnancy-related deaths.

"Launching the TeamBirth initiative is another way to show how committed we are to ensuring that all families have access to quality, respectful and equitable maternity care," Spernal said.

DOH provided funding for the initiative.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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