Your Pregnancy Matters

Pregnancy: It takes a village

Your Pregnancy Matters

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More health care organizations are implementing a team-based care model, including our Maternal-Fetal Medicine team.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a team to bring a child into the world.

It used to be that when you were pregnant, you would see one Ob/Gyn throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Nurses and other healthcare providers would be involved at times, but your Ob/Gyn would be in charge of making decisions for your care.

While this may still be the case in some instances, more health care organizations – including UT Southwestern – have implemented team-based care. We moved to this modern model in fall 2015, combining decades of our providers’ experience in each patient’s care.

Since the trend toward team-based prenatal care began, data have revealed many positive outcomes. For example, a study shared at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting in February 2022 showed that preterm birth risk decreased 5-9% for patients who received intensive team-based care – more than five face-to-face visits with a care manager.

Diversifying the group of providers involved in prenatal care can have favorable outcomes. During pregnancy, you likely will see several providers, such as your doctor, nurses, and certified nurse-midwives. As we learn more from studies and from patients, different roles will emerge to help guide and improve your care.

When you choose an Ob/Gyn, it’s important to understand who will be on your team during your prenatal care, while you are in labor, and helping you recover in the post-partum period, and what everyone’s role will be – including your own.

What is a team-based care model?

Health care providers have always worked together to care for patients. But in the past, we didn’t regularly discuss our patients with other doctors. If a patient’s primary doctor was not on duty or was otherwise tied up, this absence could delay communication or decision-making in a patient’s care.

A team-based model breaks down these barriers to make communication more fluid and care more integrated. In this model, every physician on the team is responsible for your care – from recommending an action plan to executing it. Doctors are empowered to make decisions as they think best without having to find and check in with the primary physician. We’re all in agreement and trust each other to provide excellent care for every patient at the moment she needs it.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in February 2016 published a report outlining the benefits of team-based care and suggestions to implement it. The report, which took a task force nearly two years to complete, was endorsed by nearly 20 organizations representing a wide range of health care specialties.

The task force concluded that a team-based approach improves care and the patient experience while it decreases costs. The report outlined six guiding principles for team-based care:

  • The patient is a central and engaged member of the team.
  • The team shares a central vision.
  • Every member of the team understands how the team functions and their role within it.
  • Team members are accountable for their own practice and to the team.
  • Communication is key.
  • Team leadership is dynamic and flexible.

Data from the 2022 study published in SMFM validate that team-based care can result in positive outcomes, particularly for patients with risk factors for preterm birth, including physical, mental, and socioeconomic complications.[MO1] By combining a team of individuals with varied skills, we can help reduce the risk of negative outcomes and increase the likelihood of connecting you with information and resources to improve your health during and after pregnancy.

Your health care team may consist of a variety of providers: Ob/Gyns, physician’s assistants, nurses (including certified nurse midwives and lactation specialists), a pharmacist, or experts in a specific specialty, such as neurology or cardiology. Thanks to advances in telehealth, team members may not always be in your office.

Our maternal-fetal medicine team in Dallas meets frequently to discuss our patients. Each of us is familiar with the patient’s story and plan for care, including delivery. This means if you call with a question, a nurse doesn’t need to track down one specific Ob/Gyn to get an answer. Any of us can help you – which translates into a faster response back to you!

Related reading: Ob/Gyn checklists can make pregnancy care safer

What is your role in the team-based care model?

Gone are the days when health care ran on the premise that the physician should make all the decisions.

In a team-based care model, you are always at the center with the team providing care in a way that best suits your individual needs. You are expected to be an active participant in this process.

Don’t be afraid to ask “Why?” when your provider orders a test or procedure. It’s your health and your life – and it’s your money that pays for that health care. We will educate you about best practices and your options, and you decide which is appropriate based on your values, goals, and preferences.

If you fear you’ll lose out on a personalized approach with so many people involved in your care, don’t worry. Your care will be based on your individual needs and condition.

Medical care is complex. It’s nearly impossible for a single doctor to be an expert in every single area. However, when you have a team involved with your care, problems are more likely to be identified earlier. And with the varied backgrounds and experience of the team members, we can offer recommendations that are more broad and innovative than if only one person was in charge of the care plan.

What’s important to remember is that when more medical professionals – each with a unique knowledge base and skill set – are engaged in keeping an eye on you, your care will improve.

Schedule an appointment online or call 214-645-8300 if you have questions or want more information about our Ob/Gyn team.