Towards an integrated perinatal care pathway for vulnerable women: The development and validation of quality indicators

Florence D'haenens, Kaat Helsloot, Karen Lauwaert, Lien Agache, Griet Van de Velde, Veerle De Frène, Mieke Embo, Joeri Vermeulen, Katrien Beeckman, Maaike Fobelets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVE: Development and validation of a set of quality indicators for vulnerable women during the perinatal period.

DESIGN: A three-phase method was used. Phase 1 consisted of a literature review to identify publications for the development of care domains and potential QIs, as well as a quality assessment by the research team. In phase 2 an expert panel assessed the set of concept QIs in a modified three-round Delphi survey. Finally, semi-structured interviews with vulnerable women were conducted as a final quality assessment of a set of indicators (phase 3). Ethical approval was obtained from the ethics committee of the University Hospital Brussels and from the Ethics Committees of all the participating hospitals.

SETTING: The Flemish Region and the Brussels Capital Region in Belgium.

PARTICIPANTS: Healthcare and social care professionals (n = 40) with expertise in the field of perinatal care provision for vulnerable families. Vulnerable women (n = 11) who gave birth in one of the participating hospitals.

FINDINGS: The literature review resulted in a set of 49 potential quality indicators in five care domains: access to healthcare, assessment and screening, informal support, formal support and continuity of care. After assessment by the expert panel and vulnerable women, a final set of 21 quality indicators in five care domains was identified. First of all, organisation of care must involve an integrated multidisciplinary approach taking account of financial, administrative and social barriers (care domain 1: access to healthcare). Second, qualitative care includes the timely initiation of care, a general screening of the various aspects of vulnerability (biological, psychological, social and cognitive) and a risk assessment for all women (care domain 2: assessment and screening). Vulnerable women benefit from intensive formal and informal support taking account of individual needs and strengths (care domain 3: formal support; care domain 4: informal support). Finally, continuity of care needs to be guaranteed in line with vulnerable woman's individual needs (care domain 5: continuity of care).

KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Implementing quality indicators in existing and new care pathways offers an evidence-based approach facilitating an integrated view promoting a healthy start for woman and child. These quality indicators can assist healthcare providers, organisations and governmental agencies to improve the quality of perinatal care for vulnerable women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102794
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • Care pathway
  • Perinatal care
  • Quality indicators
  • Vulnerable woman

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