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Breaking down the benefits of maternity support programs

We sit down with Paige Price, RN, to look at the best ways to engage moms-to-be with their benefits.

A new leaf on the family tree, those first wobbly steps, one glowing candle on a first birthday cake. Moms-to-be and their families definitely have a lot to look forward to.

Maternity education and support programs offer employers and their employees the opportunity to improve care throughout this exciting life stage, from prenatal health to 12-month check-ups.

In-house RN Paige Price walks us through the basics of maternity advocacy and support programs, and how benefits teams can help expand their impact.

 

Let’s start with the basics. What is a maternity outreach program, and who usually administers it?

Maternity programs can take on many different forms, but typically include one-on-one guidance and education for expectant mothers throughout a pregnancy. The overall goal is to promote healthy moms and babies.

One of the ways we do that here at Healthgram is to encourage and enhance a mother’s relationship with her doctor. Our nurses are here to answer questions they still have after their appointments, act as a second set of eyes on visits and lab work and support employees should anything unexpected come up. Doing so ensures necessary prenatal care and lowers the risk for complications. In that way, we like to think of our nurses as a trusted additional resource that moms-can-be can add to their care team.

Programs have the most impact when administered by an entity that has all health information on-hand, from pregnancy-related claims to medications and even lifestyle factors such as a history of smoking. Every pregnancy is different, and the ability to see a full picture of a mother’s health helps identify gaps in care quickly.

 

What should employers know about the impact of maternity outreach programs? 

It may not be top-of-mind for many employers, but it should be. Pregnancy remains the largest single health claim for employers, accounting for about 10% of hospital stays. In addition, there is a vast cost difference between proactively managed pregnancies and those that are left unmanaged. This cost difference increases exponentially when the first year of life is considered. From both a cost and care perspective, offering this type of benefit is definitely a win-win for employers and their employees.

Proactive outreach remains the best opportunity to have an impact financially. We’re able to have a better idea of any complications that may arise and anticipate time away from work.

Cost aside, investing in the health of employees makes good business sense. If employees are healthy, the business will be healthy. Providing a maternity outreach program to employees gives them a trusted resource during a period of change, something we’ve noticed they greatly appreciate.

Pregnancy, especially if it is a members’ first child, inspires an endless stream of questions about something they’ve never done or experienced before. When you’re at a doctor’s appointment, so many things are going through your mind and frequently, employees who are expecting forget to ask the questions they have. That’s why it’s great to have a nurse available to take the time to talk through everything the employee is feeling and answer those questions.

Even if a member is in good health, specific precautions like avoiding mercury and adjusting diet are important to cover. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to dispell any popular misconceptions that could hurt mom or baby.

 

Pregnancy is a major health event for mothers and families, and could possibly be the most frequent interaction with the healthcare system they have had. How can engagement in this type of program promote long-term smart consumerism? 

Pregnant or not, healthcare can be confusing. Consumers often have questions that aren’t answered, and that’s the scary part.

Maternity outreach helps bridge the gap, and sets a new family up with the confidence to navigate the healthcare system. Offering outreach in conjunction with your health plan administration is key, as conversations can encourage smart utilization post-delivery, such as finding an in-network pediatrician, keeping up with annual well-woman visits and even advise on eligibility requirements, such as adding a new baby to the medical plan.

Outreach should focus on identifying high-risk and potential complications early on so that we can intervene on behalf of mom and baby. Unfortunately, during delivery and the first year of life, complications can arise despite a healthy pregnancy. When a mother-to-be is engaged in maternity outreach before birth, it’s easier and quicker for us to assist and support mom and baby through hands-on care coordination and education in the next phase of care.

 

Do you find that there are common hesitations moms-to-be have as far as participating in these programs?

At first, people can be nervous and skeptical. We find that their main hesitations stem from worries about confidentiality and a lack of understanding of the program. And that’s an area where company culture and communication can help.

 

How can employers help overcome these barriers so that they, and moms-to-be, can reap the benefits?

Strong coordination between the employer and team administering the program is essential. A central message focused on laws that protect their privacy help us overcome this barrier. We’ve seen this drastically increase engagement.

Employers have a significant opportunity to position the availability of these outreach programs as an added benefit to employees and covered spouses. Build it into your onboarding procedures, along with promoting other wellness services. Provide education to mid-and-upper management and have them buy into the program’s impact. Reinforce it throughout the cycle of employees’ careers so that when they need this type of care, they know it’s there.

An organizational culture shift can also increase engagement. A culture of open communication, where women don’t hesitate to disclose their pregnancies, encourages smart prenatal care. This can extend to discussing maternity leave policies and creating a plan for returning to work so that moms-to-be feel supported both clinically as well as at work.

 

As far as program best practices, what have you seen be the most successful in engaging moms-to-be and improving health outcomes?

Early intervention is key. Proactively identifying members in need of maternity outreach is helpful, but it’s also a good practice to opt in themselves by calling or enrolling online.

As far as topics covered, we talk about everything from potential complications to lifestyle modifications. Every pregnancy is different, so an individual approach is best. There are a lot of questions employees are scared to ask, so something we like to do is send a booklet of FAQs directly to the employee for them to review on their own.

Engagement best practices can range from incentive programs to communication strategies. It’s important to meet employees where they are with a variety of communication mediums. Try direct mail, electronic reminders and phone calls on their schedules.

To better understand how to incorporate maternity benefits into your strategy, get in touch with an expert member of our team here.

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