HOSPITALS: Another New Designation


By Staff Reporters



The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) added a new designation to identify which hospitals are “Birthing-Friendly”—a label it will begin adding to qualifying hospitals in fall 2023.

The designation aims to reduce maternal mortality and complications in the US; maternal mortality rose by 25% in 2020, and Black women die at nearly three times the rates of white women, according to a CDC report from February. The US ranked last in maternal mortality that year compared to 10 other high-income countries, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

To earn the designation, CMS said, hospitals must participate in a statewide or national collaborative program where medical teams and public health leaders work together to improve care quality for birthing parents and babies. Hospitals that opt in qualify for an operating payment rate increase of 4.3%, a much-needed boost for hospitals struggling with profitability in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation.

But there’s no single set of metrics that hospitals will be required to follow to earn CMS’s new designation, and any changes they make may depend on what areas need improvement. For example, hospitals could focus on reducing pregnancy complications and early births, which happen before 39 weeks, according to the CDC.

CMS’s designation—at least in its initial form—isn’t tied to outcomes. However, medical professionals said there are a variety of measures and outcomes that have been shown to make a hospital truly birthing-friendly.

When it comes to measuring maternal-care quality, one metric comes up over and over again: a hospital’s C-section rate, said Holly Loudon, chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City.

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