Using potentially preventable severe maternal morbidity to monitor hospital performance

Published:November 18, 2022DOI:



      : The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measure of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) quantifies the burden of SMM but is not restricted to potentially preventable SMM. We adapted the CDC SMM measure for this purpose and evaluated it for use as a hospital performance measure.


      : Guidelines for defining performance SMM (pSMM) were (1) exclusion of preexisting conditions from outcome; (2) exclusion of inconsistently documented outcomes; and (3) risk adjustment for conditions that preceded hospitalization. California maternal hospital discharge data from 2016 to 2017 were used for model development, and 2018 data were used for model testing and evaluation of hospital performance. Separate models were developed for hospital types (Community, Teaching, Integrated Delivery System [IDS], and IDS Teaching), generating model-based expected pSMM values. Observed-to-expected (O/E) ratios were calculated for hospitals and used to categorize them as over-, average-, or under-performing using 95% confidence intervals. Performance categories were compared for pSMM versus CDC SMM (excluding blood transfusion).


      : The overall 2016 to 2018 pSMM rate was 0.44%. All hospital types had over- and under-performers, and the proportions of Community, Teaching, IDS, and IDS Teaching hospitals whose performance differed from their performance on the CDC SMM measure were 12.1%, 25.0%, 38.9%, and 66.7%, respectively.


      : The rate of potentially preventable SMM as defined by pSMM (0.44%) was less than half the previously published rate of CDC SMM (1.03%). pSMM identified differences in performance across hospitals, and pSMM and CDC SMM classified hospitals’ performances differently. pSMM may be suitable for hospital comparisons because it identifies potentially preventable, hospital-acquired SMM that should be responsive to quality improvement activities.
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