Since the establishment of the NHS in 1948, advances in healthcare have led to a decline in stillbirth and children being born with birth injuries. However, over the last 30 years progress has stalled. To address this deceleration, the Department of Health has set a target to half the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in England by 2030, supported by new guidelines laid out in NHS England’s Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle.
Technology has a significant role to play in achieving this goal, although use of made-to-measure maternity software is not yet as widespread as one would imagine. While bigger hospitals are reporting positive results from employing new technologies, some mid-sized hospitals are yet to reap the rewards of rolling out these cutting edge systems.
If you’re committed to improving antenatal care and reducing unnecessary poor outcomes, here are just five of the ways technology can transform maternity care in your hospital.
1. Electronic notes throughout pregnancy, labour and delivery
You might remember a time when pregnant women were responsible for carrying their own hand-held maternity notes. Healthcare staff would also generate notes relating to the pregnancy which remained in the hospital. If a woman required extra care, for example, treatment for diabetes, it meant more paper notes and a more scattered paper trail. What’s more, the notes could only be accessed by one person at a time.
Software like K2 Athena, which provides remotely-accessible data capture throughout the entire pregnancy, and K2 Guardian, which captures all data in the delivery room and communicates it to all involved staff, solves these long-standing challenges. The digital notes are accessible to all healthcare workers involved in a woman’s care – and, in the case of Athena, the expectant mother herself – while contributing to a paperless care environment where all those contributing to a woman’s care can readily access the notes wherever they happen to be. As a result, the risk of poor outcomes is lowered and the level of care is significantly increased.
2. Accurate and consistent interpretation of fetal heart rate
Women are sensitive to the way their unborn babies move and aware if that movement seems irregular. Element 3 of the Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle highlights the importance of women reporting reduced fetal movements (RFM) and healthcare providers having protocols in place to manage appropriate care.
Traditionally, if there is concern regarding fetal movement, the mother visits the hospital in order for the baby’s heart rate to be recorded over half an hour or so. An interpreter then studies the patterns of the heart rate to work out whether they are consistent with a healthy baby. The issues with this are two-fold: first off, it calls for a skilled, eagle-eyed interpreter and, secondly, it requires a doctor in every case to review the recording. Furthermore, the trace is recorded on paper, resulting in another note potentially buried in the pile which may be significant later in the pregnancy or during labour.
Software like K2 FetalWellBeing supports Element 3 in the Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle by computer interpretation of fetal monitoring and applying the Dawes-Redman criteria to confirm whether the pattern of recorded fetal heart rate is consistent with that of a healthy fetus. If it detects something unusual, the clinician will be notified so that they can carry out further evaluation. Not only does it save time but it also saves all of the notes electronically so they can be instantly recalled when required, for example, during labour when they can act as an important starting point for interpreting fetal heart rate.
3. Reducing the risk of human error
It’s no secret that hospitals are short-staffed and healthcare workers are already stretched thin. Even without the risk factors of long hours worked under stressful circumstances, human error is natural and inevitable. However, when it comes to healthcare, a single mistake puts lives at risk – one simple error can transmit all the way through to a poor outcome.
The use of technology in maternity care doesn’t just provide more consistently accurate readings and more organised, easier-to-recall pregnancy notes. It also ups the number of people who are involved in a pregnant woman’s care, increasing situational awareness and the likelihood that another member of staff will have the opportunity to intercept an error. It’s an extra safety net for all involved and bolsters the excellent care already provided by midwives and clinicians.
4. Remotely monitoring blood pressure and urine protein
Women at risk of high blood pressure are normally advised to attend hospital appointments two to three times per week for routine monitoring. It can be a tiresome task for the woman, particularly as the pregnancy progresses and, oftentimes, the visit may not have been necessary to begin with.
Using the K2 Hampton app, pregnant women can self monitor their blood pressure and urine protein from their homes or workplaces. The app uses artificial intelligence to give immediate feedback to the woman on her condition and relays the results in real-time to midwives in hospitals who can further assess them and make informed decisions such as whether or not a follow-up appointment is required. Remote monitoring has been shown to reduce hospital visits by up to 50% as well as save the Trusts up to £966.97 per woman compared to traditional monitoring*.
5. Accurate monitoring during labour and delivery
Monitoring a baby’s heart rate during labour is the most effective way to assess how they are coping with the associated stress. It identifies the rare baby who may not be responding well to the stress and flags this with healthcare workers who can assess whether operative intervention is required.
Even for the most skilled interpreters, it can be tricky to accurately interpret heart rate during labour – significantly more so than during an antenatal appointment as a consequence of the higher level of stress. Software such as K2 INFANT has been developed to interpret fetal heart rate during labour and, if necessary, raise concern and communicate it around the hospital so that multiple members of staff are made aware.
It’s just one more way that technology ensures pregnant women can benefit from a full team of experts if not always physically then digitally during pregnancy, labour and delivery. Click here to get in touch and find out more about how K2’s products can improve maternity care in your hospital.
*This study only includes costs to the trust and did not include any additional cost savings associated with the woman herself.