Introduction: Group prenatal care combines clinical care with peer support and education. Research has indicated neutral or positive results for group care when compared with traditional individual prenatal visits. A national initiative, Strong Start II, was implemented to determine if specific prenatal care interventions such as group prenatal care can reduce the rate of preterm birth, improve health outcomes, and lower costs. This study explored barriers to implementation and sustainability and strategies for overcoming barriers and sustaining the model.
Methods: Results from prenatal care provider-level qualitative case studies for the independent evaluation of Strong Start were examined. Case studies for sites implementing group prenatal care were based on a total of 313 interviews with 441 Strong Start key informants (eg, prenatal care providers, project staff, and health administrators involved in group care) and 53 focus groups with 428 Strong Start participants from 2013 to 2016. Supplemental interviews with 25 additional stakeholders were also conducted. Case study data were queried using content analysis followed by a grounded theory-based analysis of these findings.
Results: Barriers to implementation existed at patient, provider, administrator, system, and funding levels and included inflexible appointment times, lack of childcare, lack of appropriate meeting space, new scheduling and training needs, meeting requirements of graduate medical education programs, prenatal care provider and administrator reluctance to adopt new practices, and Medicaid payment policies. Sites newly implementing group prenatal care had varying degrees of success sustaining their programs. Both new and established sites identified provider champions and opt-out enrollment approaches as critical for maintaining buy-in.
Discussion: Successful implementation of group prenatal care depends on systematic strategies at the practice, payer, provider, patient, and policy levels to implement, reimburse for, and sustain the model. Strategies for overcoming barriers can assist practices in offering this transformative approach, including practices with graduate medical education programs or those serving women with clinical, demographic, or psychosocial risk factors for preterm birth.