Analysis identifies great variation in levels of digital maturity across England’s maternity providers

Most maternity providers in England are making a “good start” in adopting digital technologies, according to a new report by NHS Digital.

Published in November this year, the analysis looked at the progress made by all 135 providers, and the investment being made in software, equipment and infrastructure.

The digital maturity assessment (DMA) found great variation across the country, with some trusts scoring zero (the lowest level) on some sections and others 100 (the highest level), although only a minority had “very low digital maturity”.

“We now want to see greater collaboration across the NHS so those maternity services not using digital can be helped along the journey,” said Juliet Bauer, NHS England chief digital officer.

The overall national average score was 51, and findings indicated that areas of high and low digital maturity were distributed across England. The highest scoring section was governance, which scored 77, while the lowest one was remote and assistive care, scoring 23.

“It would appear the maternity providers are often doing well on the same elements but are also encountering challenges in the same areas. This allows a great opportunity for the national teams and networks to focus on solving those common issues,” the report reads.

At the time the analysis was completed, NHS Digital identified 20 suppliers providing maternity systems to trusts across England, and “close to a quarter” of providers said they were considering re-procuring their IT system in the next 12 months.

The DMA was commissioned after a national review outlined the potential role that technology could play in transforming England’s maternity services. It included more than 200 questions prepared by clinicians, spanning the acute and community setting, and responses were converted into scores to allow them to carry out comparative analysis and calculate an overall score.

“The Maternity DMA is a ‘self-assessment’– this means that it is mainly based on the opinions of those who complete it, rather than pure fact. As a result of this, there may be inaccuracies or inconsistencies compared with what actually happens,” according to the analysis.

Digital midwife Julia Gudgeon, clinical advisor for the Digital Maternity Programme at NHS Digital, and one of the report’s authors, said:

“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.”

Twitter: @1Leontina
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