People using maternity services in north east London will be encouraged to play a greater role in their care with the rollout of a new digital tool designed to reduce health inequalities.
CardMedic – an award-winning app and website system which translates common clinical conversations into different languages and formats – will be used to make care more personalised, improve communication with medical staff and boost safety.
As well as providing instant translation support in a number of different languages, CardMedic can be switched to British Sign Language and subtitles to help those who are deaf or have hearing problems, Easy Read for children or people with learning disabilities, and a ‘read aloud’ function for those with visual impairment or literacy issues.
It is also hoped this will enable maternity teams to use translation services in a more efficient way – allowing staff to act more quickly in urgent and emergency situations and overcome communication barriers at times when translators are not available.
The system has been commissioned by North East London Health and Care Partnership, the integrated care system (ICS) which covers Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
North east London (NEL) ICS serves a diverse and fast-growing population, with more than 250 languages spoken and 53% of residents identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority, compared to 11% across England. It also has the highest birth rate in the country.
CardMedic will initially be used to encourage uptake in maternity services to address the healthcare inequalities that exist in parts of NEL and support work to improve perinatal pelvic health among those who need extra specialist care during or after pregnancy.
It follows national reports and audits suggesting poor outcomes – particularly for those from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds – could have been different with more accessible information, stronger communication and greater cultural awareness.
Alice Compton, Senior Project Manager for Maternity Digital and Data Transformation and a digital midwife at NEL ICS, said:
“After speaking with maternity service users in north east London and understanding their experiences, it was clear that major gaps in service provision existed, with pregnant people and families often feeling they were not being listened to by staff.
“We know improvements need to be made to ensure pregnancy and birthing experiences are equitable, personalised and culturally appropriate for everyone, so by getting it right for those who experience the poorest outcomes, we’ll get it right for everyone.
“Deploying CardMedic will help us address this – giving service users the opportunity to play an active role in their care and reassuring clinicians that they are delivering the same care standards to all their patients, irrespective of their language or background.”
Dr Rachael Grimaldi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, CardMedic, said:
“Everyone has the right to access healthcare, and communication barriers should never stand in people’s way. We’re proud to be a part of NEL ICS’s journey in reducing health inequalities, improving communication between healthcare staff and families, and making care more accessible for all.”
CardMedic will be available through hospital services in NEL ICS by late summer, including maternity units and maternity clinics run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
The feedback gathered from maternity service users in north east London and their families has been used to produce a strategy and action plan which aims to improve equity and equality for pregnant women so services better meet the needs of those who use them. The full report can be read on the NHS North East London website here.