Advertisers have long known the birth of a child offers a chance to develop a relationship with a new customer. Now, hospitals are getting the message, and making investments to help build years-long relationships with families.
Maternity care is "one of the examples of where you can really develop a relationship with a family early on, and during a significant life event, that really forms a bond between that individual family and the hospital," said Warren Geller, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
In order to attract expecting mothers, Geller said, hospitals focus on selecting the right amenities and "anticipating what their needs are going to be when they come in." Englewood's Family Birth Place offers a range of services, from working with women thinking about conceiving to the neonatal intensive care unit for fragile newborns.
"We don't measure it strictly on babies being delivered or moms being admitted for other issues. We measure on what it brings to the organization as a whole," he said.
The investments in maternal care have been rewarded with tangible gains, according to the hospital. That means "we can reinvest in the organization, and then all of our depreciation is available in a capital budget to build new units; buy the latest and greatest equipment; or build modern operating rooms in the future, develop more family support space."
Family investment is the cornerstone of St. Clare's Health System's Katena Center for Mother and Child, which offers massages, refresher classes for grandparents and private delivery rooms large enough to fit extended families.
"We have a really active childbirth education department, and that's one of probably the first contacts they'll have when they come to (the) maternity area," said Jennifer Waters, director of maternal and child health services.
The facility also has allowed St. Clare's to implement technology to improve the care of mothers and newborns. The Katena Center, at the hospital's Denville campus, uses electronic health records for physician orders and barcode medication administration for double-checking the care being delivered is appropriate.
While the Morris County population has aged, and the number of deliveries in the area has declined overall, "we've been able to maintain our numbers, rather than drop our numbers," because of the amenities offered and the community relationship with the staff, Waters said.
The type of staff available to expecting mothers is an important factor of attracting maternity patients.
For more than 15 years, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in Hamilton, has employed midwives on staff — a rare occurrence. The RWJ-Hamilton staff is the largest midwifery group in Mercer County, with six certified nurse-midwives.
Barbara Smith, chief operating officer for the hospital, said in a statement that the midwives complement the physician staff, and typically work with low-risk deliveries.
"Under this model, we have the combined resources of a well-trained, midlevel clinician and a physician, each delivering the appropriate level of care," Smith said. "I believe we will see patient care moving in this direction — excellent, appropriate care that is also at a lower cost."
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