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Electronic communication between midwives and health visitors

25th August 2017

In support of Health Visiting Week (#HVWeek), and with today’s theme being around transition, a blog by Dr Ellinor Olander, Ryc Aquino and Professor Ros Bryar from City University London on their Collaborating in Pregnancy and Early Years (COPE) research project on communication between midwives and health visitors.

Dr Ellinor Olander, Professor Ros Bryar and Ryc Aquino COPE Research team

Dr Ellinor Olander, Professor Ros Bryar and Ryc Aquino
COPE Research team

To facilitate prompt and accurate information sharing between midwives and health visitors, clear communication processes are vital.

Whilst this information sharing has, in the past, relied on paper-based notes, electronic communication is now more commonplace.  Electronic communication compared to hand-held notes has a number of advantages including easy updates of information by different healthcare professionals, inbuilt reminders for healthcare professionals and streamlined referral processes to other services.

Despite these strengths, many midwives and health visitors do not have access to the same electronic information systems.  As part of our research programme (COPE – COllaborating in Pregnancy and Early years, https://blogs.city.ac.uk/cope/) we recently invited 20 midwives, health visitors and mothers to discuss the barriers to continuity of care from pregnancy to postpartum.

Their number one barrier?  Lack of shared IT Systems.

The mothers at our event reported that they do not feel heard or listened to when they have to repeat information that they had previously shared with another healthcare professional. This is in line with some of our recent findings from an interview study with 29 recent mothers – information is not being shared from midwife to health visitor which means women have to repeat their care history, sometimes reliving traumatic experiences.

Similarly, health visitors and midwives reported in another one of our interview studies that using a shared electronic recordkeeping system would help them tailor care to a woman that is appropriate for her circumstances. Thus, it is clear that the lack of shared electronic systems hampers care for women and their children.

Importantly, having a shared electronic system is not necessarily a panacea for ensuring accurate information sharing between healthcare professionals.  There is also a need for clear guidelines and appropriate processes to guide how information is shared, in what manner, by whom, when, and how often.

With the mandatory antenatal contacts by health visitors, it is also important that information does not simply go one way, but from health visitors to midwives and vice versa. Furthermore, it is important that time is made available to healthcare professionals to input information into joint electronic communication systems and that there are opportunities to also share information securely over the phone and in person.

Dr Ellinor Olander, Ryc Aquino and Professor Ros Bryar COPE Research team, City University London

For more information about COPE, see our website https://blogs.city.ac.uk/cope/

To read more about the factors enabling and preventing collaboration between midwives and health visitors, see our recent systematic review: Aquino, M. R. J. V., Olander, E. K., Needle, J. J., & Bryar, R. M. (2016). Midwives’ and health visitors’ collaborative relationships: A systematic review of qualitative and quantitative studies. International Journal of Nursing Studies 62, 193-206.