Quality framework for remote antenatal care: qualitative study with women, healthcare professionals and system-level stakeholders.
BACKGROUND: High-quality antenatal care is important for ensuring optimal birth outcomes and reducing risks of maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the usual provision of antenatal care, with much care shifting to remote forms of provision. We aimed to characterise what quality would look like for remote antenatal care from the perspectives of those who use, provide and organise it. METHODS: This UK-wide study involved interviews and an online survey inviting free-text responses with: those who were or had been pregnant since March 2020; maternity professionals and managers of maternity services and system-level stakeholders. Recruitment used network-based approaches, professional and community networks and purposively selected hospitals. Analysis of interview transcripts was based on the constant comparative method. Free-text survey responses were analysed using a coding framework developed by researchers. FINDINGS: Participants included 106 pregnant women and 105 healthcare professionals and managers/stakeholders. Analysis enabled generation of a framework of the domains of quality that appear to be most relevant to stakeholders in remote antenatal care: efficiency and timeliness; effectiveness; safety; accessibility; equity and inclusion; person-centredness and choice and continuity. Participants reported that remote care was not straightforwardly positive or negative across these domains. Care that was more transactional in nature was identified as more suitable for remote modalities, but remote care was also seen as having potential to undermine important aspects of trusting relationships and continuity, to amplify or create new forms of structural inequality and to create possible risks to safety. CONCLUSIONS: This study offers a provisional framework that can help in structuring thinking, policy and practice. By outlining the range of domains relevant to remote antenatal care, this framework is likely to be of value in guiding policy, practice and research.