And Now For Something Completely Different…
As a lot of original blog readers know, I am a huge fan of birth centers and midwifery care. The difference in quality of care between the hospital where I gave birth the first time and the birth center I used for my second birth was striking enough to, you know, propel me to start this blog.
When I moved to Arkansas two years ago, the state’s first freestanding birth center, Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas or BCNWA, was just opening. I had the chance to help them on various projects and I don’t think I fully realized until later on what an enormous undertaking opening a birth center, let alone a birth center in Arkansas, was. If I can say that I personally know all of the Certified Nurse-Midwives catching babies in Arkansas (not because I’m popular but because I can count them all on one hand), that gives you a good idea of the founders’ starting point while trying to work with the state and various payers on licensing and reimbursement.
I visited BCNWA recently and it was great to see that not only is the Rogers, Arkansas, location going strong but another site is open in Cary, North Carolina, under the umbrella of the same parent company, Baby+Co. Three more birth centers are opening soon in Denver, Nashville and Charlotte.
My visit to the birth center was aptly timed, and not just because it reminded me that I need to schedule my overdue well-woman visit with the midwives there. In researching cost and pricing transparency along with rates of procedure utilization and quality metrics in maternity care, I keep happening upon mentions in articles of birth centers as potentially high-quality, low-cost alternatives to hospital care. The gist of a lot of it is global billing for the perinatal episode, like a prix fixe for patients whose birth occurs at the birth center (as opposed to those who risk-out or must transfer to a hospital for care), which keeps costs down and encourages coordination of care.
Check out this excerpt from a 2013 Integrated Healthcare Association policy brief:
There is a compelling need to improve how we pay for and deliver maternity care in the United States. Evidence indicates that reducing the number of medically unnecessary obstetric interventions, currently rewarded by the fee-for-service payment system, would reduce maternity care costs while improving care and outcomes for mothers and babies.
Bundled payment has the potential to realign incentives in maternity care. Combining all costs into a single, episode-based payment creates financial incentives for providers to enhance care coordination and increase efficiency, which in turn should lead to lower costs and improved health outcomes.
Beyond the obvious benefits and perks of high-quality health care in absolutely gorgeous settings, the care model that Baby+Co is implementing across the country— a scalable, turnkey model of a freestanding birth center with a close relationship to a local hospital— is worth watching as a maternity care reform innovator.
While Baby+Co is off changing the landscape of maternity care in the U.S., their midwives are available for a free consultation for people considering giving birth at the birth center and will take care of your well-woman visits, too!
Still curious about the Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas? This video gives a great overview: