Health Technologies

Study of maternity app at UCLH explores access and engagement among vulnerable pregnant women – htn

A new study has been published that explores a digital maternity app in use at University College London Hospitals NHS FT, specifically focusing on access and engagement among vulnerable pregnant women.

The research entitled ‘The impact of digital healthcare on vulnerable pregnant women: A review of the use of the MyCare app in the maternity department at a central London tertiary unit’ was recently published in Frontiers Digital Health.

The app in use at the trust provides users with access to test results, appointment information, and enables communication with healthcare professionals. However, the researchers state that “little is known about access and engagement among vulnerable pregnant women”.

In the study, anonymised data from April–June 2022 was used, for people who downloaded the app and those who did not. In addition, a survey was completed by vulnerable pregnant women and HCPs.

One of the main aims of the study was to explore whether any disparities existed relating to patients’ socio-demographics or characteristics, and to gain insights to understand views from vulnerable pregnant women on using an app for maternity care.

The authors noted that “lower rates of utilisation and engagement with MyCare were seen in vulnerable pregnant women especially among refugee/asylum seekers, those with mental health issues, and those facing domestic violence. Non-users were also more likely to be individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds, with a lower average social-deprivation-index decile, whose first language was not English, and with a significant history of non-attendance to appointments.”

This researchers said their findings advance “the idea that digital exclusion is not necessarily a matter of access to technology, but an issue of a lack of engagement with these tools” and add that “vulnerable women and HCPs must be integral to the implementation of digital strategies, to ensure no one is left behind”.

Suggested improvements are made, including more language options, the ability to configure the interface, and an alternative that operates on non-smartphones, as well as non-digital options.

The authors conclude by highlighting the need to formulate a pathway to identify and assist those not accessing or engaging, facilitate training early in antenatal care, and create adaptive versions of the app. They state: “Overall, the success of MyCare and digital health requires synergy between HCPs and patients as empowering both groups is critical in realising any benefits associated with patient portals.”

Citation: Pierce P, Whitten M and Hillman S (2023) The impact of digital healthcare on vulnerable pregnant women: A review of the use of the MyCare app in the maternity department at a central London tertiary unit. Front. Digit. Health5:1155708. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2023.1155708

To view the research, please click here.



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