Healthcare News & Insights

Joint Commission: New maternal infectious disease requirements coming for hospitals

Hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission will soon have new requirements for infectious diseases transmittable by birth. Any organization with a labor and delivery unit will need to implement three new elements of performance (EPs) by July 1, 2018, to better identify mothers at risk of passing on infectious diseases to their babies. 

The Joint Commission released a new R3 Report detailing the changes. Starting this July, hospitals providing obstetric services will have three additional requirements for mothers admitted for childbirth:

  1. Upon admission, the mother’s status for HIV, hepatitis B, Group B streptococcus (GBS) and syphilis should be documented in the mother’s medical record (if known).
  2. If disease status is unknown, the mother should be tested for the aforementioned four diseases, and the results should be documented in her medical record. However, GBS test results may not be available for up to two days, so hospitals can opt to pass on this test and give antibiotics to the mother.
  3. If the mother tests positive for any of the four listed diseases, that info should also be documented in the newborn child’s medical record.

Timely testing for infectious diseases

Although there’s been a 90% decline in babies infected with HIV during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding, some women don’t receive adequate prenatal care. These EPs are meant to promote timely testing and treatment for both mother and baby, and prevent neonatal infection.

“The requirements will help improve maternal and neonatal health in Joint Commission-accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals across the country,” said Kathy Clark, MSN, RN, the associate project director specialist in the Division of Health Care Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission.

“If left undiagnosed or untreated, infectious diseases can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening,” Clark continued. “It is critical that testing and treatment for both the woman and baby is completed according to clinical practice guidelines.”

These requirements were developed with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Preventing disease transmission before birth

These guidelines help keep babies healthy during labor and delivery, but the No. 1 way to cut down on infectious disease transmission is by testing for diseases in expectant mothers as soon as possible. While this isn’t always feasible, getting tests done early allows both mother and child to stay safe and healthy through delivery and beyond.

In addition, connecting mothers with infectious diseases to community groups and online resources can improve their mental health and provide support during pregnancy.

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