In the rapidly evolving world of digital healthcare technology, digital health cards are considered a key technology. Experts often argue their implementation is an essential step in the digitalisation journey and a means of creating more efficient and effective healthcare systems. Creating a comprehensive healthcare record for individuals ensures data is centralised, readily accessible and available to healthcare decision-makers.
In many cases, providers initially implement digital health cards in specific service areas. The maternity sector is arguably the best example of this. Digital maternity medical cards are designed to deliver an overview of the care provided to expectant mothers and create an accurate record of their pregnancy progression. At the same time, they empower pregnant women by creating a channel through which they can engage with, contribute and better understand their pregnancy care.
This article examines how these cards work and how they benefit healthcare organisations, medical professionals and pregnant women.
What are digital maternity medical cards?
Digital health cards consolidate an individual’s health records in a single database, allowing easy access and retrieval. They typically contain information concerning historical care, healthcare appointments and communications between individuals and healthcare providers.
Digital health cards are a core component of efforts to digitise and digitalise modern healthcare systems. They are a repository for information collected from a diverse range of healthcare sources, systems and stakeholders and facilitate the sharing of this data between practitioners and patients.
Digital maternity medical cards apply this technology to maternity care specifically, creating a comprehensive record of the care provided across the entire pregnancy timeline. The cards are a dual-sided technology that includes both provider-facing and patient-facing components. They allow all maternity care professionals to view critical data and leverage up-to-date information. Equally, they ensure mothers and their partners can also access that data. In many instances, they can contribute to it, too.
Healthcare solutions built around digital maternity medical cards also feature an array of other advanced functionalities. For instance, they incorporate messaging features that enable mothers to communicate with their healthcare professionals. Some solutions also integrate a knowledge base or information bank where expectant mothers can chat with other pregnant women or ask questions and receive answers from professional midwives.
The Finnish healthcare system is an excellent example of this technology in action. Many of its healthcare regions have used Omda’s digital pregnancy service for over a decade. During that period, approximately 4,800 healthcare professionals and 145,000 pregnant women have benefitted from the system. It is arguably the gold standard for digital maternity medical cards and the model to which many other healthcare systems are looking.
What are digital maternity medical cards replacing?
While some healthcare systems have already adopted (or are beginning to implement) digital health cards, many still utilise paper-based systems. Though valuable, paper documents have inherent restrictions and weaknesses. For instance, you can only fit so much data on an A4 sheet and there are practical challenges involved in safely storing large quantities of physical documents in a secure and accessible manner. At the same time, paper-based documents are prone to being misplaced and ensuring they contain accurate, up-to-date information, much of which is coming from different sources, is difficult. Digital health cards overcome many of these issues.
Exploring the benefits of digital maternity medical cards
We have briefly touched on the fundamental advantages of using digital health cards over paper-based systems. Here, we examine the benefits of digital maternity medical cards in greater detail.
Consistency of care and improved communication
On a fundamental level, digital maternity health cards improve on paper-based systems in several ways. For instance, they allow for greater consistency of care, creating a single source of truth that cannot be misplaced or lost. The data collected is available to healthcare professionals for as long as required and is a comprehensive account of the care provided.
In this respect, the digital maternity health card facilitates more accountable, traceable and transparent healthcare delivery. It is a complete record that charts pregnancy progression, providing all those involved in maternity care with a clear timeline and an improved understanding of the decisions and actions that contributed to the healthcare context at that moment.
At the same time, it is a way of improving communication between healthcare providers and mothers. A well-designed digital maternity card can be the mechanism by which healthcare professionals communicate information to the mother, write down instructions or respond to questions.
Connecting digital healthcare solutions
Historically, maternity care (and the wider healthcare system more generally) has been fragmented and divided. Diverse digital solutions deliver the different elements of maternity care. And those technologies do not always communicate or integrate well. As a result, digital data and communication silos within healthcare organisations have been a significant obstacle to improving healthcare delivery.
Fragmented systems and poorly connected digital solutions tend to prevent the sharing of valuable data. Consequently, information that could be critical in determining the right course of action is not always available across the entire care spectrum. Information collected at the start of the maternity journey is often relevant later in a pregnancy. There is no reason it should not be available to those healthcare professionals who need it, no matter what stage of the maternity timeline they operate in.
Digital maternity health cards can be the thread which connects the diverse digital solutions utilised in maternity care. By acting as the central repository for all maternity care data, it encourages greater integration and connects previously disparate technologies.
In this respect, the digital health card is a remarkably powerful tool. It is a catalyst for greater integration and can make isolated digital systems a thing of the past. This logic also applies to the relationship between maternity care and other forms of healthcare. Pregnancy and a mother’s maternity journey are often relevant to other aspects of healthcare, and information acquired during pregnancy may influence future healthcare decisions.
If we want healthcare systems that encourage and facilitate informed decision-making, we must ensure all relevant data is available to healthcare professionals. That means creating an accurate and comprehensive medical record that connects diverse digital technologies. For instance, in maternity alone, municipal midwives, GPs, private ultrasound clinics and hospital outpatient clinics provide follow-up care to pregnant women. They will also benefit from more accessible and accurate data.
Standardising data for streamlining exchange
To connect diverse healthcare solutions, healthcare organisations and technology providers must standardise the data collected for digital maternity cards. In many healthcare systems, such as Norway’s, this process is currently underway. Establishing data standards enhances the care we can provide and improves healthcare outcomes by creating comprehensive, authoritative and accurate personal records.
At the same time, it helps determine best practices and enables healthcare organisations to implement processes and structures that encourage the best possible care provision. Rather than having significant variations in the data collected during the maternity process, healthcare providers work in the same way and with the same data.
While we have already touched on the benefits of this to healthcare organisations, it also impacts mothers, partners and families engaging with maternity services. Improved data sharing makes care more accessible. For instance, expectant mothers travelling away from their regular point of care can attend a clinic, see a doctor or reach out to other healthcare professionals and know they will have access to their records and be able to provide care based on the information contained within them.
Encouraging patient engagement
Going a step further, digital maternity cards also encourage greater patient participation in their care. This typically happens via user-facing digital solutions. Omda WellMe is an excellent example of how we can deploy this technology in the maternity setting. By providing access to digital maternity cards and enabling mothers to contribute information to those records, you create a unique source of up-to-date information that covers the periods between healthcare contacts. Traditionally, there has been no way of acquiring data for these periods.
User-submitted information can vary from background information to blood pressure and sugar values. It can also include answers to lifestyle questionnaires covering substance use, nutrition and exercise habits. This is beneficial on multiple levels. First, it involves the mother and other relevant individuals in the care process. For the mother, this can help alleviate feelings of alienation, powerlessness and lack of control. Care is no longer something that is happening to them. Instead, it is something they are participating in. Parents are also playing an active role in monitoring the pregnancy, easing the transition into parenthood.
At the same time, improved engagement and greater participation reflect shifting expectations. Increasingly, mothers expect the healthcare experience to replicate and resemble other digitally-informed experiences in their lives. Seamless, connected digital experiences are increasingly becoming the norm. There is no reason that should not be the case in maternity care.
Most importantly, it creates a steady stream of data that provides real-time insights into the mother’s medical situation and allows for a better understanding of their evolving needs. It allows for timely interventions for issues that may be overlooked or picked up late at the next healthcare appointment.
Improved maternity care planning
Finally, digital maternity cards are pivotal in improving short- and long-term maternity care planning. In the short term, it ensures healthcare professionals have more information to prepare for appointments and meetings. This means there is a lower likelihood of them going into appointments blind or unaware of recent developments. While this certainly improves the quality of care provided, it reduces stress and pressure for care providers and allows for more considered decision-making.
In the long term, a more advanced and systematic approach to collecting, storing and sharing data also enhances strategic decision-making. For instance, specific types of postnatal care can be scheduled well in advance, enabling those providers to plan and ensure the necessary resources are in place. Resource optimisation also benefits from a broader and more detailed set of data inputs. Management will profit from a clearer understanding of exactly how mothers use maternity services and the specific demands placed upon healthcare workers and other resources.
Creating a modern digital maternity system
Digital technology can enhance and improve maternity care in many ways. From solutions that streamline statistical analysis in fertility clinics to tools that simplify data collection and create digital partograms during delivery, we can leverage technology to assist and support healthcare professionals across the maternity system.
However, digital maternity medical cards are arguably the technology that will significantly impact the quality of maternity care provided. By creating a centralised record that both healthcare providers and users can access easily, digital health cards lay the foundations for a more efficient, communicative and participatory type of maternity care.
Digital maternity medical cards enable more regular and detailed contact between healthcare professionals and mothers. They connect the various digital solutions used in the maternity sector. They standardise data collection and facilitate streamlined sharing, enabling mothers and their partners to engage more with their care. Finally, they improve long-term care planning by giving managers greater statistical insight into performance and service usage.
Omda maternity solutions and digital health card
At Omda, we believe digital technology significantly enhances the quality of care provided and empowers healthcare professionals and pregnant women. Our digital maternity medical card is central to creating a more efficient, safer healthcare system that gives individuals the data they need to make informed decisions.
The Omda Woman & Child team envisions a future where fertility and maternity care are connected, and data flows freely between solutions, medical professionals and healthcare settings. Our maternity technologies are designed to support the rollout of a digital healthcare card that covers the entire maternity timeline, from conception to postnatal care.
You can find information concerning our maternity care solutions on the Woman & Child solutions page which also contains contact details for the Women & Child team.