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Using human centered design to identify opportunities for reducing inequities in perinatal care



Extreme disparities in access, experience, and outcomes highlight the need to transform how pregnancy care is designed and delivered in the United States, especially for low-income individuals and people of color.


We used human-centered design (HCD) to understand the challenges facing Medicaid-insured pregnant people and design interventions to address these challenges. The HCD method has three phases: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. This study focused on the first and second. In the Inspiration phase we conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposeful sample of stakeholders who had either received or participated in the care of Medicaid-insured pregnant people within our community, with a specific emphasis on representation from marginalized communities. Using a general inductive approach to thematic analysis, we identified themes, which were then framed into design opportunities. In the Ideation phase, we conducted structured brainstorming sessions to generate potential prototypes of solutions, which were tested and iterated upon through a series of community events and engagement with a diverse community advisory group.


We engaged a total of 171 stakeholders across both phases of the HCD methodology. In the Inspiration phase, interviews with 23 community members and an eight-person focus group revealed seven insights centered around two main themes: (1) racism and discrimination create major barriers to access, experience, and the ability to deliver high-value pregnancy care; (2) pregnancy care is overmedicalized and does not treat the pregnant person as an equal and informed partner. In the Ideation phase, 162 ideas were produced and translated into eight solution prototypes. Community scoring and feedback events with 140 stakeholders led to the progressive refinement and selection of three final prototypes: (1) implementing telemedicine (video visits) within the safety-net system, (2) integrating community-based peer support workers into healthcare teams, and (3) delivering co-located pregnancy-related care and services into high-need neighborhoods as a one-stop shop.


Using HCD methodology and a collaborative community-health system approach, we identified gaps, opportunities, and solutions to address perinatal care inequities within our urban community. Given the urgent need for implementable and effective solutions, the design process was particularly well-suited because it focuses on understanding and centering the needs and values of stakeholders, is multi-disciplinary through all phases, and results in prototyping and iteration of real-world solutions.

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