Pregnant women across Central Texas, including low-income and uninsured expectant mothers in Travis County, will benefit from enhanced health care under a redesigned system of perinatal care that launches next week. (Read Dr. Amy Young's op-ed in the Austin American-Stateman.)
The new system, which launches Monday, represents a total community approach to women's health services. It will provide more coordinated care to expectant mothers and is open to any Central Texas woman who needs it, regardless of her ability to pay. And it will help align resources to ensure they are focused on women and babies, not providers and insurance companies.
This effort, led by the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, includes Central Health, CommUnityCare Health Centers, the Seton Healthcare Family, the Community Care Collaborative and St. David's HealthCare.
"Women will have better access to the right level of care at the right time earlier in their pregnancy, leading to better outcomes and lower costs," said Dr. Amy Young, inaugural Chair of the Dell Medical School Department of Women's Health. "These changes will enhance community-based prenatal care services for all women, including those who are low-income and/or uninsured."
Under the redesigned system, all pregnant women will receive an initial prenatal care visit at one of three regional CommUnityCare centers – Southeast Health & Wellness Center, East Austin Health Center or North Central Health Center. During this initial visit, women will receive an ultrasound to determine the baby’s due date and will be examined by an obstetrician, who will assess the health of the mother and baby.
Depending on the health needs of the pregnancy, the obstetrician will work with the mother to develop a course of care to ensure that she and her baby have access to the appropriate level of prenatal care.
Women with routine pregnancies will receive prenatal care at one of eight CommUnityCare sites in Travis County, often near their homes. In addition, a labor and delivery visit will be scheduled with an obstetrician for all women near their due date to provide continuity of care between prenatal visits and the time of labor and delivery.
Mothers experiencing intermediate-need pregnancies will receive prenatal care at a more specialized regional CommUnityCare center, and women with high-need pregnancies will receive care at the CommUnityCare Women’s Health Center, staffed by obstetricians trained to support pregnancies with high needs.
The redesign also will establish a Perinatal Center of Excellence at Seton Medical Center Austin so that women and babies have access to the highest quality care and resources at the time of delivery.
"This redesign represents the first collaboration to arise from the voter-mandated Central Health investment in the Dell Medical School, and it also represents our ongoing commitment to improving access to convenient, high-quality, community-based care for mothers and babies – before and after delivery," said Patricia Young Brown, president and CEO of Central Health, Travis County's health care district.
The perinatal system is designed to ensure that every woman, at the beginning of her pregnancy, gets the opportunity to see an obstetrician, learn about the specific health issues she might face, and receive the right level of prenatal care at the right time, said Kate Henderson, president of Seton Medical Center Austin and of Seton's Health Equity Initiatives. It also consolidates Seton's deliveries at the medical center's new Center of Excellence to help ensure that women get the highest possible level of care. Deliveries at University Medical Center Brackenridge, the numbers of which have greatly diminished in recent years, are transitioning to the medical center.
"These changes will ensure that excellent care meeting uniformly high standards is available to low-income, uninsured women at every stage of their pregnancies," Henderson said. "This will be a better, stronger, more integrated prenatal care system."