Maternity services across Suffolk and north east Essex have deployed the CardMedic communications app to improve access across the entire maternity pathway.

The app is being used to improve the experiences for all those using the regional integrated care system (ICS) and to support the ambitions of the area to fulfil NHS England’s Core20PLUS5 framework.

It helps to improve confidence in care services as well as remove communication barriers. It allows users to communicate freely with healthcare professionals regardless of any additional needs, language barriers or cognitive impairments.

The app is being used by multidisciplinary teams, including midwives, obstetricians and other clinical staff, as well as administrative teams at West Suffolk Hospital, Ipswich Hospital and Colchester Hospital.

CardMedic has 800 pre-written clinical scripts that can be accessed, as well as a chat function. Keywords and phrases can be accessed to help ensure information is fully understood and that patients are able to ask questions if needed.

One of the areas of clinical focus for the Core20PLUS5 framework is maternity services, and Suffolk and North East Essex ICS is an early adopter.

“Data tells us that health inequalities exist in maternity services throughout England,” said Teri Gavin-Jones, clinical lead midwife at Suffolk and North East Essex ICS. “In the UK, Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and brown women are two times more likely to die than white women.

“Reducing the equity gap and improving communication is our priority in Suffolk and north east Essex. By using CardMedic as a tool to help address communication barriers, we will be able to deliver more equitable services to a larger number of people in the region.”

Joining up the maternity care pathway

The app has been in use since November 2022 and is being used to support shared decision-making for expectant parents.

Maternity services were chosen to be the first area for CardMedic deployment as those using the service will often engage with healthcare teams at multiple points. The app is helping to join up all parts of the maternity care pathway so that families have access to equitable care, and the postcode lottery effect is reduced.

Emma Connell-Smith, project delivery lead at Suffolk and North East Essex ICS, said: “The app is going to make patient journeys safer, and provide a better experience. It will give people the opportunity and confidence to ask questions, and give clinicians the ability to respond quickly, which is so important in urgent situations. We have 44 languages and formats sitting in our pockets now, which is going to streamline the services we provide.”

Feedback to date has been positive, leading to clinicians in other specialisms expressing their keenness to use the app in other services. The ICS is also focusing on developing new content for the app alongside CardMedic, to make it more personalised to users.

In December 2022, Mid and South Essex ICS became the first UK care system to roll out CardMedic.