The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently introduced a new feature on its Care Compare online tool: a “birthing-friendly” designation icon. This designation aims to guide the public in identifying hospitals and health systems that are actively participating in either statewide or national perinatal quality improvement collaborative programs and implementing evidence-based care practices to enhance maternal health. The initiative is part of a broader effort to address the maternal health crisis in the United States, a key focus of the current administration.
The “birthing-friendly” designation is aligned with the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis and Vice President Kamala Harris’s national call to action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. It also marks a significant achievement in the CMS Maternity Care Action Plan. Vice President Harris emphasized the importance of this initiative, noting the high maternal mortality rates in the U.S. compared to other developed countries and the administration’s commitment to addressing this crisis through directed government actions.
The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra highlighted the administration’s dedication to helping pregnant and postpartum people find high-quality maternity care. The “birthing-friendly” hospitals and health systems serve as a crucial resource for consumers seeking top-tier care. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to advance maternity care quality, safety, and equity.
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure stated that the “birthing-friendly” designation is a key part of CMS’s efforts to improve maternal health in the U.S. The designation not only recognizes hospitals and health systems committed to quality maternity care but also represents a move towards health equity. Given the persistent maternal health inequities across the nation, especially among Black, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations, who experience the highest rates of pregnancy-related deaths, this designation is seen as a step towards ensuring that all pregnant and postpartum people can access high-quality maternity care.
In addition to this, CMS has reported that 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. People from some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to encounter negative healthcare experiences during pregnancy and delivery, which impacts the quality of care they receive and their health outcomes. The “birthing-friendly” designation is a response to these disparities, aiming to improve the overall standard of maternity care.
To further this initiative, last December CMS hosted the agency’s first-ever Maternal Care Health Convening, which brought together government and industry leaders. During this event, over two dozen health plans committed to using the “birthing-friendly” designation on their consumer websites. This commitment is expected to reach over 150 million people, significantly expanding the visibility and impact of the designation.
The Care Compare tool, along with an accompanying interactive map, enables the public to easily locate hospitals and health systems with the “birthing-friendly” designation in their area. This feature is designed to be user-friendly, offering a straightforward way for expectant parents to find and access quality maternity care services. In summary, CMS’s introduction of the “birthing-friendly” designation is a significant step towards addressing the maternal health crisis in the U.S. This initiative, part of a larger government strategy to improve maternal health outcomes, emphasizes the importance of quality, equity, and accessibility in maternity care. It also represents a collaborative effort between government and healthcare providers to ensure that expectant parents, especially from minority groups, have access to the best possible care during one of the most critical times in their lives.