Childbirth complications cost US $825M annually — 3 ways AI can reduce costs, improve care

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Physicians from Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine and Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center shared three ways artificial intelligence can be deployed in hospitals to curb maternal mortality in an Aug. 9 Harvard Business Review report. 

The United States has the highest maternal death rate of all high-income countries. American women are twice as likely to die from childbirth complications as Canadian and French women. These statistics are only more pronounced when factoring racial minorities into the mix. Six in 10 maternal deaths are preventable, according to CDC data.

Hospitals might be able to use AI to reduce the frequency of complications in childbirth. It can also reduce medical costs because it's three times more expensive to care for a patient experiencing severe maternal morbidity. Various estimates have put the number at around $825 million to several billion annually.

Three ways AI could help reduce maternal morbidity: 

  1. Deploy AI in EHRs to scan for worrisome vital signs.
    AI can be deployed in EHRs to determine which women are at high risk for childbirth complications. Stanford piloted a program that showed technology can be used in EHRs to scan vital signs and detect risks. A follow-up study found EHRs are more effective at predicting hemorrhaging than clinicians.

  2. Use wearables to track heart rates.
    Technology can be used to monitor patients during their pregnancies and improve access to routine and specialized care. Many maternal deaths occur outside of the hospital setting. Technology, such as Apple Watches, can be used to monitor cardiovascular health — the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States.

  3. Use at-home tech to bring specialized care into homes.
    High-risk patients who deliver babies at low-acuity hospitals have a 50 percent higher risk for maternal morbidity than when delivering at high-acuity hospitals. High-risk patients could be referred to different hospitals that have more resources and experience in these complications. Technology can extend high-acuity care to patients who live far away from these hospitals. Studies have demonstrated that patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans if they are monitored using technology.

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