Women in Northwest Indiana with complicated or high-risk pregnancies used to have to travel to an academic medical center to receive specialized inpatient care. Now, a new collaboration between Munster, Ind.-based Community Hospital and University of Chicago Medicine allows many of these women to give birth locally.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialists consult and co-manage high-risk pregnancies, and it is hard for nonteaching hospitals to recruit them because much of their work is research-based, according to Carla Meyer, Community Hospital’s director of patient care services.

Under the new program, maternal-fetal medicine specialists from University of Chicago Medicine are now available to inpatients at Community Hospital. The specialists are also available for phone consultations 24 hours a day. Expectant mothers with complications can go directly to Community’s emergency department or can be referred into the program by their OB-GYN physician.

The inpatient program expands the maternal-fetal services offered by University of Chicago Medicine at Community Hospital, which previously had been available only on an outpatient basis. And because many patients were already seeing a University of Chicago Medicine specialist on an outpatient basis, they likely already know the physician who will be treating them should they require inpatient care.

“It’s important for continuity of care. The patient is relieved that the whole team is working together for the best outcome. This was the next logical step,” says Meyer.

Community Hospital already has a neonatal intensive care unit staffed by University of Chicago neonatologists.

“We can now provide [most] services, so we can keep the moms in the community where their support services are. This is especially important for preterm births where the baby may have a long-term hospital stay. It saves the family time and energy and makes it easier for the family unit to bond,” says Meyer.

To Meyer’s knowledge this is the first collaboration of its kind, but it can be replicated elsewhere.

The program is appreciated by both patients and their primary OB-GYN physician. “It adds an extra set of eyes,” says Meyer.

“University of Chicago [Medicine] is dedicating resources to this and reaching outside its walls and into other communities. We want to provide extraordinary care to our patients and families,” says Meyer.

“We are [now] prepared to manage the expected and the unexpected,” she says.