A new report shows for the first time how digitally ‘savvy’ maternity services in England are – and aims to drive up the better use of technology.
The majority of maternity providers are making a good start at using digital technology, according to the Maternity Digital Maturity Assessment1 report, produced by NHS Digital.
Greater use of digital technology will help maternity staff and services to provide better care for patients and more effectively use resources.
All 135 maternity providers completed an assessment of their progress in adopting digital technology, such as providing electronic health records, sharing information digitally and giving patients access to online resources. The assessment also looked at how much investment was being made in software, equipment and infrastructure.
Providers were assessed according to their level of digital maturity with the results helping organisations identify their strengths and gaps in the use of digital services and highlighting common challenges faced by maternity providers and potential solutions which could help them improve their digital maturity2.
Recommendations include encouraging greater collaboration, so that the more digitally mature maternity providers share their expertise with the handful who had low maturity levels. The report also reinforces important messages around the need to identify and support digital leaders at all levels throughout maternity services.
Digital midwife Julia Gudgeon, clinical advisor for the Digital Maternity Programme at NHS Digital and one of the authors of the report, said: “This report marks an important step forward in explaining the role technology and data can play in driving up safety, quality and efficiency within maternity services.
“We have listened to clinicians working in the field and women themselves, both of whom are key to developing the use of digital tools to improve the experience of service users. This insight helps us to understand what to do and what not to do.
“Our hope is that the findings of this report will inspire further collaboration so that women, technology and maternity services can work together to provide better health, better care and better value.
“We live in a world where digital technology is transforming our lives and we need to bring these benefits into maternity care.”
Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer for NHS England, said: “Using the best digital technology, from specialist mental health consultations via Skype - as NHS England announced in February - to use of digital records to support maternity services, can improve patient care for women, babies and their families.
“We now want to see greater collaboration across the NHS so those maternity services not using digital can be helped along the journey.”
As part of the report, research was carried out with users of maternity services through Maternity Voices Partnerships3, working groups of women, commissioners and providers.
Laura James, acting chair of National Maternity Voices, said: “National Maternity Voices, the national network of Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVPs) in England, was delighted to work alongside NHS Digital through MVPs to canvass the views of those using the maternity services about digital technology.
“There appears to be a clear desire among women to access their own electronic maternity record and to use digital technology to understand their choices.
“Most importantly, we know women don’t want to have to repeat the same information to different health care professionals over and over again and effective digital technology can help with this.
“It is vital that effective digital solutions are found for those working in, and using, maternity services.”
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Notes to editors
- The Maternity Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA) was commissioned at the end of 2017 after Better Births - NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for improving outcomes of maternity services, published in 2016 - established the important role technology plays in transforming maternity services.
- The Maternity Digital Maturity Assessment includes national analysis. Each of the 44 local maternity systems in England, groups of providers and commissioners which plan the design and delivery of services in their region, will receive their own Maternity DMA report.
- Maternity Voices Partnerships are NHS working groups including women and their families, commissioners and providers (midwives and doctors) working together to review and contribute to the development of local maternity care.
- The Maternity Digital Maturity Assessment report is available here and more information about the role of digital technology in the Maternity Transformation Programme is here