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How Can Digital Innovation Support Maternity Teams and Their Patients?


Nov 17, 2021 - 10 minute read

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Objectivity Innovative leader in technologies

Our specialty is designing, delivering, and supporting IT solutions to help our clients succeed. We have an ethical framework that underpins everything we do. Our underlying philosophy is that every client engagement should result in a Win-Win and this is supported by our four values: People, Integrity, Excellence, and Agility. Our clients are at the heart of our business and we are proud to form long-lasting working relationships, the longest of which is 29 years. Our goal is to continue to grow our business whilst remaining true to the ethical framework and values on which we are founded.

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Since early 2018, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care (GMHSC) Partnership has had a Smokefree Pregnancy programme in place to help pregnant individuals quit smoking. The initiative generates a vast amount of data and requires transparency of information to track its efficiency. The GMHSC Partnership and Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) partnered with Objectivity to develop a digital platform to support maternity staff working on the programme. The new platform helped the programme become even more successful and has been shortlisted for the HSJ Awards 2021.

We talked to Jane Coyne, Strategic Lead for Making Smoking History at GMHSC Partnership, about her mission, the programme’s objectives, and the role of an innovative solution in achieving them.

Jane, could you tell us about your experience and why you wanted to work on the Smokefree Pregnancy programme?

Jane Coyne: I’ve been a midwife for 21 years, and I had the chance to work in different areas and services related to the job. At one point, I ended up managing community services, but I still felt I could give even more and maybe reach more people who need support. When you work within one hospital Trust, you obviously work with a small group of people in that locality. I wanted to see if I could do something on a bigger scale.

When I saw the job for the Smokefree Pregnancy programme, I thought: what a brilliant outcome that will have, actually affecting babies’ lives. I decided to apply, even though I didn’t know what it would be like to be a Programme Manager. Then I realised that being a midwife means having to manage various situations and issues, and that I was doing the job already. I knew that with this new position I could make a real difference, and it was exactly where I wanted to be. I’ve met some amazing people here, and I’ve learned so much. This job showed me that you never ever stop learning — and I love it.

Let’s talk about the programme and your role. What challenges and opportunities did you come across?

JC: When it came to running the programme itself, we were testing different possibilities of what would work and help us improve the service. We were collecting a lot of data, and the real challenge was to bring all of it together. Data collection in midwifery is generally difficult, there are many systems to check, the data is often purely number-based and hard to link to the linear patient journey. We knew we needed the right platform to tackle this challenge.

I came on board when they were just beginning the rollout of the first phase of the programme, so I was just in time to take over. We’ve got 7 maternity units and 10 different stop smoking services. There were vast amounts of complex data coming our way. I realised I couldn’t manage all of it on my own. I got the support of our analyst, Charlie Steer, and together we spent the next 12 months on defining what information we needed, what would our KPIs be and how we can improve the services.

In Greater Manchester, we have a lot of cross-boundary work — some women may have their baby in a hospital not in the area where they live, so hospitals have to cross-check their information and refer the patients to the right services. This also added to the complexity of data we needed to handle. It was very difficult to link everything to the patient record. It’s an entire patient journey, and we needed wider health intelligence to track it.

We knew that in midwifery we needed something different from the existing stop smoking support platforms. Our solution would have to cover our specific needs. I felt like there was potential for digital innovation that we should utilise. We met with the Objectivity team, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Together with the team, we process-mapped everything in order to get a full picture of all the challenges. We needed to make sure we could collect the right data to fit our KPIs and help us get rid of the administrative burden. It turned out that we could get some really rich data which we couldn’t even talk about before. Now, the Smokefree Pregnancy platform helps us reach people with the services they need.

What was it like for you to work side by side with a technology company? Did you have any previous experience with it or an idea what to expect from such a collaboration?

JC: Obviously, we were using a maternity information system, but I hadn’t been involved in building a dedicated solution before. I found it really exciting and refreshing. The team did an excellent job in speaking to me in “plain English” so that it wasn’t too technical. They took their time to understand our challenges and then to explain their proposed solutions to us. We met very frequently, the team prepared mock-ups, so we could see if everything looks and feels right. Involving everyone in the process meant that in the end we had something really workable, as opposed to when technical solutions are just given to you without checking your actual needs.

The Objectivity team worked with the midwives who would be using the platform, which enabled them to understand and capture their specific requirements. Eventually, we had everything we needed in one place.



You began building this innovative solution at the height of the pandemic. Did this affect the software delivery process in any way?

JC: What’s phenomenal about this cooperation is that we never even sat together in a room. It was all done virtually. During the pandemic, we lived in a virtual space and it probably helped us get things done quicker — without anyone having to spend time on travelling. We could meet often, even on the same day, so the work was moving at an accelerated pace. During the meetings, we used a whiteboard to put things up on the screen and decide what features we wanted. The team walked us through every step of the process, so we could follow the logic of why we’re doing things a certain way and how one decision impacts another. Surprisingly, the virtual work came with an ease of access — the midwives, who would be too busy to travel to regular meetings, got the chance to actively participate in building a solution that would address their needs.

As midwives, we need to be available to our patients, meet with them in-person. Here, we plunged into this virtual world that was perhaps scary at first, but eventually helped us deliver an innovative programme and have fun doing it. At the same time, thanks to the virtual cooperation, we didn’t have to compromise on the work we perform face-to-face with our patients.

What were your first impressions when you went live with the new application?

JC: Once the work was completed, we could quickly see that throughout the pandemic we managed to engage more women in the programme and our quit rates were improving.

When we went live with the new platform, we had to train all our midwives to use it. We organised several interactive training sessions where they could see how the platform works and start making the transition from the manual track-keeping to utilising this new solution.

Currently, we have plans to expand the platform’s functionalities even further. We want to link it with pharmacy systems to deliver click-and-collect services and nicotine replacement therapy. Essentially, we want to create a one-stop-shop for midwifery services that will also work offline.

When it comes to smoking in pregnancy, what’s the scale of the problem?

JC: Smoking in pregnancy remains the single biggest modifiable risk factor for poor outcomes in pregnancy. Even though we’re improving, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Every year, thousands of babies are born to women who smoke, which affects their health. We’re also observing cases of stillbirth and miscarriages caused by smoking. It’s a big burden on our wider health economy. People who smoke during pregnancy require more interventions, more appointments, and are at more risk of having emergency C-sections. The more individuals we can support to quit smoking, the more likely their babies will be to reach their full potential.

How did the newly developed platform affect your services? What results did you see?

JC: We put our innovative programme in place to get parents-to-be engaged and help them quit smoking. When we started utilising the new platform, the midwives could finally see all the information they needed in one spot. We noticed an increase of women entering the programme. The quit rates rose by 10%. The burden on the midwives was significantly reduced. They can now see more patients and use a diary feature in the platform to plan their visits. The midwives have access to each other’s diaries, so they can easily cover for each other when someone is on holiday. Information isn’t lost in the system, we know if referrals are coming through and if there’s a need to intervene. Our midwives not only had a lot of weight taken off their shoulders, but they can now also easily see the outcomes of their work. We can track our performance accurately and plan further improvements.

Your work is being recognised at a national level. You have been nominated for the Royal College of Midwives Award and the Smokefree Pregnancy platform has been shortlisted for the HSJ Awards 2021. How do you feel, seeing that your work is being noticed and appreciated?

JC: It feels very humbling and even a bit challenging. I’m not the kind of person who wants to be in the limelight. I think I’m good in the background where I bring some leadership and support, as well as clinical credibility. Together with our midwives, we worked hard to achieve standardisation and consistency across our system. I believe we brought equality to pregnant people. The offer is the same regardless of where you live. We’ve trained all our staff in the same way, and we deliver our services consistently. This is really beginning to show outcomes. Knowing that what you’re doing is really saving babies’ lives is the most rewarding thing of all. There were challenges, of course, but there’s no better feeling in the world. This has been the pinnacle of my career. To be seen as an example makes me burst with pride, not only about what I’ve achieved, but also what my colleagues are achieving every day.

When I switched jobs, I didn’t know if it would be right for me. But to see the results is just phenomenal. There has been a lot of hard work, but it’s been a wonderful experience.

What are your plans now? We can assume you’re not going to stop here, so what’s coming up next for you?

JC: That’s the big question, isn’t it? I’m supporting the NHS England's long-term plan team for Smokefree Pregnancy. We’re sharing our learning from Greater Manchester with other areas of the country. Moreover, we’re supporting the Manchester CURE programme, we want to see if what we’ve learned can be used to help the bigger population of smokers within secondary care.

I would love our platform to be adopted nationally. It would mean that every midwife or stop smoking service could use the same platform. We’d have one system with all the data recorded, which could help us provide consistent and standardised care everywhere. If we can make it even bigger, perhaps we can reach more people with the platform and support the entire stop smoking system.

I’m still considering how we can utilise what we’ve learned further and bring even more improvements. Additionally, we continue to develop our platform and adapt it to more and more functionalities.

Now that you’ve had this experience of working hand in hand with a technology team, how would you describe your cooperation with Objectivity?

JC: It was great to have a person who oversaw the entire process and did a bit of hand-holding for us. We were dealing with different people for different pieces of the platform, and having that one person with that oversight, bringing you along and supporting you was wonderful.

The team met with us regularly, so we always stayed up-to-date. Also, Objectivity’s flexibility to meet our needs was fantastic. The fact that we remained at different locations was never an issue. We were able to work in a virtual space, and this proves that we can extend this type of cooperation to other projects. We managed to establish a relationship without ever meeting in-person, we felt that everyone was included, and even the hard work was fun.

Objectivity was very client-focused, working closely with us as the Product Owner, but also showing integrity in looking for a solution that would be best for us. They live by their company values, and we really felt they wanted to create something bespoke for us.

Would you like to summarise your work on the digital platform, but also the work you do every day within the programme?

JC: I work with a big team every day, and they are all doing a fantastic job. We’re actually part of a bigger system. My programme sits within the Make Smoking History programme — we strive for wider tobacco control to help people stop smoking before they even come into pregnancy. You know, this is all part of saving babies’ lives. It's about putting all our efforts together to deliver something amazing.



Jane Coyne, Smokefree Pregnancy Programme Manager at GMHSC Partnership

Jane Coyne is a senior midwife and manages the Smokefree Pregnancy programme for Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership. Jane has been responsible for implementing and embedding this complex programme that is pioneering in its work, taking a system-wide approach in the implementation of NICE guidance and an innovative incentive scheme. Jane has been influential in adapting the programme to ensure its sustained delivery throughout the pandemic. Jane is passionate about ensuring Element 1 of the Savings Babies Lives Bundle is fully embedded to reduce the number of people who smoke during pregnancy. Her goal is for Greater Manchester to reach the national ambition of reducing the percentage who are Smoking at the Time of Delivery to 6% or less by 2022. Prior to leading on the Smokefree Pregnancy programme, Jane worked for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust for over 18 years. When Jane isn’t working you will find her on the side-line of the football pitch supporting her son or walking the dog.


About the author

Małgorzata Caban, Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Objectivity

She specialises in translation, writing and knowledge management. In her work, she combines her passion for languages with an interest in technology. Privately, she was part of a team of volunteers responsible for the Polish translation of “Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear” video game.

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Objectivity Innovative leader in technologies

Our specialty is designing, delivering, and supporting IT solutions to help our clients succeed. We have an ethical framework that underpins everything we do. Our underlying philosophy is that every client engagement should result in a Win-Win and this is supported by our four values: People, Integrity, Excellence, and Agility. Our clients are at the heart of our business and we are proud to form long-lasting working relationships, the longest of which is 29 years. Our goal is to continue to grow our business whilst remaining true to the ethical framework and values on which we are founded.

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