Maternal Mortality

The fix is in: AIM bundles to combat maternal morbidity and mortality


“Anytime you have a maternal death, it sticks with you for life,” said Elliott Main, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Stanford (Calif.) University and one of the nation’s leaders in combating maternal mortality.

Dr. Elliott Main Courtesy Dr. Elliott Main

Dr. Elliott Main

Dr. Main has had two maternal deaths in his career, years ago. One woman had a fatal stroke because of severe hypertension, and another died of cardiac complications. “We tried to do everything we possibly could, but you scrounge your memory for years and years [afterward]. To have a young healthy person go into labor and delivery and not come out is a tragedy at all levels. It charged me to not ever want to see that happen again,” he said.

Today, Dr. Main is the medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), a wide-ranging group of clinicians, state officials, hospitals, and others who have come together to address the issue. About 30 states have similar perinatal quality collaboratives (PQCs), and other states are forming them.

They work in collaboration with maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs), state-level groups that review maternal deaths, identify problems to address, and make recommendations to the quality collaboratives on how to prevent maternal deaths.

About 600-800 women die in the United States each year due to pregnancy-related complications, which ranks the United States behind other industrialized nations. Leading causes include hemorrhage and hemorrhagic strokes secondary to hypertension. It’s estimated that the majority of maternal deaths could be prevented with proper care.

To that end, states are enacting safety bundles from the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM), which was established by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist several years ago. There are bundles that address obstetric hypertension, hemorrhage, mental health, venous thromboembolism, opioid use, racial disparities, and other problems. They were developed by experts in the field and published in multiple journals. California and other states have issued toolkits on how to implement them based on local circumstances.

The goal is to standardize best practices nationwide to prevent maternal morbidity and mortality, Dr. Main said.

AIM bundle implementation is “what’s happening in New Mexico and a lot of states, mostly through the efforts of state level quality care collaboratives. Some [states] are further ahead than others,” said Eve Espey, MD, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and president of the New Mexico PQC.

“Most states now have a [MMRC] that collects maternal mortality and near-miss data. Those data are used by the action arm,” which is the PQC. “If the review committee says” opioid use disorder is a significant contributor “like in our state, the collaborative rolls out the opioid use disorder bundle,” she said.

Beginning next January, the Joint Commission, formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, will require that accredited hospitals enact key elements of the AIM bundles for both obstetric hemorrhage and severe hypertension. “Everyone’s [now] motivated to get on that bandwagon,” Dr. Espey said.

“The bundles are here to stay,” and the Joint Commission requirements are “a really important step for sustainability and basic implementation. We really want to get them adopted everywhere,” said Dr. Main, who is also the national implementation director for the AIM initiative.

“The key thing is to work on implementing the hemorrhage and hypertension bundles in your hospital. I would suggest contacting [your] state” PQC, he said.


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