International Day of the Midwife 2023 – the revolutionary role of the Digital Midwife
5 May 2023
Patient expectation around managing their own health is growing, and digital midwives are vital in meeting that expectation in maternity care.
Misbah Mahmood, Leeds first ever Deputy Chief Midwifery Information Officer and a pioneering figure in digital midwifery, explains more about the work involved and the benefits for patients.
Why is a digital pathway so important in maternity services?
People today do their banking digitally and even unlock their car with their mobile phone so why should medical information be any different? Digital innovations in maternity services can greatly improve the standard of care we’re able to provide. Digitising patient information, like we’ve already done in Leeds with our online notes portal and end to end electronic healthcare record, offers so many benefits for patients.
Pregnancy and giving birth are only single episodes in our patient’s journey. When the patient (and baby) leaves maternity services for postnatal care, having their data available digitally means it can be transferred to more general information systems, supporting visibility and better, quicker care planning in the future.
Data gathering and analysis has also supported the design of population health management dashboards which help the maternity team to review different social groups, encouraging the use of maternity services and providing additional care where necessary.
How did you become a digital midwife?
I already had five years’ experience as a clinical midwife when I applied for a digital role, initially a six-month secondment. During this time, I successfully applied for the Florence Nightingale Digital Leadership Scholarship where I was mentored by the Deputy Chief Midwifery Officer which was lifechanging for me. This scholarship involved a quality improvement project which I implemented at LTHT, delivering self-referral of maternity services online instead of the traditional route of going via your GP. Since then, I’ve joined a huge online community of digital midwives and today I’m part of a team of seven.
What achievements are you most proud of during your time in the role so far?
Probably my scholarship project based on self-referral to maternity services. Pregnancy outcomes improve the earlier a patient is seen, and through our self-referral system, patients who are of a later gestation can be prioritised sooner rather than scheduling appointments on a first come first served basis. We have around 10,000 births per year in Leeds so that’s a lot of parents and their children who benefit from this digitisation.
Another part of my team’s role is helping ensure midwives have the right hardware whenever they need it but also to promote the importance of data, data quality, and digital literacy. Some people are not always comfortable with digital ways of working but, through engagement with both suppliers and stakeholders, digital midwives are working towards delivering digital maternity transformation which benefits both the providers and receivers of maternity care. I’m passionate about making sure that we support people to adjust to the digital age.
What does the future look like for digital midwives?
As this is not a traditional role, more work needs to be done to make the pathway clearer for the digital midwives of the future. We need to make potential midwives aware that this a career option for them - just because the role is digital rather than clinical does not mean that you’re not a midwife.
In fact, my clinical knowledge has increased since taking on a digital role because I have oversight of the entire system. There are already more opportunities for digital midwives today than previously, thanks to the PG Cert for Digital Maternity Leaders, and with nationally driven policies and improved understanding at Trust level, the opportunities for the next generation of digital midwives will continue to grow.
I’ve been incredibly lucky that LTHT pioneered the digital midwife role at a time when it had less recognition and I’m glad to see that a greater importance is now being placed on the role in other Trusts and on a national level.