Keep mums and babies safe by improving digital medical records

With the distressing spate of news reports about mums and ­babies who weren’t kept safe in hospital, an initiative in the Midlands to improve patient safety in maternal and acute care settings comes as a relief.

The newly announced Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration will bring together NHS trusts, ­universities and private business to evaluate how digital tools can help clinical decision making and reduce danger for patients.

Problems can arise if communication is poor between medics when patients move between departments.

Professor Alice Turner of Birmingham University said: “The power of new technology available to us means that we can address one of the ongoing areas of risk for patients, which is effective communication and clinical decision making.

“The new collaboration will be looking at how digital tools can make a real difference to reduce risks and support patient safety in the areas of acute medicine and maternal health.”

Digital decision-making tools could improve prescribing and personalised management for patients needing emergency care.

Importantly, these tools should provide a smoother flow of information between healthcare professionals in acute care between hospitals, doctors and the West Midlands Ambulance Service, and hopefully reduce risks of patient harm at key points during acute care.

Professor Elizabeth Sapey, also of Birmingham University said: “The vision is that every healthcare professional involved in a patient’s journey in acute care has access to the same information, the same decision-making support, and is able to both spot and flag any point where patients might be at increased risk of harm.

“We know that a disproportionate number of medical errors happen in acute services, and around half of patients experience a clinical error in what can be a complex journey.

“As acute care becomes more heavily relied on, it is critical we use ­technology to ensure that our patients are kept safe and risk is managed.”

Mothers and babies will also benefit from the research collaboration to look at how digital tools can support antenatal decision making.

It is known that mothers in marginalised groups have worse outcomes and quality of care compared to the general population.

Professor Shakila Thangaratinam, consultant obstetrician at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, said: “Maternal and perinatal mortality reports in the UK have highlighted that there are real issues when it comes to identifying and responding to risk.

“One of the key priorities is ­identifying early in pregnancy those mothers who need the extra support and care, thereby ensuring that women receive individualised care during pregnancy.”