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What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

NHS breastfeeding support has been paralysed by COVID-19[1][2]. A Sep-20 UK-wide survey to understand impact on breastfeeding experience found 81% of 706 respondents felt they received insufficient breastfeeding support due to social distancing measures.

LatchAid offers an exciting solution. This revolutionary app (a winner of Innovate UK’s COVID-19 Rapid-Response competition) was created by a mother with lived experience of breastfeeding issues and co-designed with infant-feeding, public health & AI experts, plus Beta-tested with 400 mothers across 6 continents. It uses 3D interactive technology, virtual breastfeeding support groups, and an AI powered virtual supporter to deliver evidence-based, 24/7 breastfeeding education/support.

COVID has meant that NHS maternity services have been looking for partners to help complement their provision, which led to emergent conversations between North-West England maternity services and LatchAid around potential collaborations. Shel Banks, Chair of the Local Infant Feeding Information Board and a trustee of Lactation Consultants of Great Britain led on scoping a potential pilot.

What does your project aim to achieve?

This project will pilot the incorporation of the LatchAid app within 3 NHS Trusts (Chelsea & Westminster, Torbay & South Devon, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals). It’ll explore the feasibility of using digital  breastfeeding support (leveraging AI and real-life specialists), within antenatal/postnatal maternity services.

The UK has the worst breastfeeding rate globally[3]; 90% of women give up breastfeeding before they want to[4]. Socioeconomically disadvantaged groups tend to have poorer breastfeeding outcomes[5], research shows health inequities were heightened post-COVID[1].

Our innovative partnership would enable:

  • all families to access 24/7 peer-to-peer/professional support to breastfeed for longer
  • improved maternal & baby mental and physical health, reducing health inequalities by providing accessible, cost-efficient breastfeeding guidance
  • meeting of public health targets for breastfeeding
  • better-designed services & staff training; analysis of pilot’s conversational datasets will provide insight into prevalent challenges

We’ll collaboratively design/collect KPIs (e.g. breastfeeding duration/exclusivity) and Patient-Reported-Outcomes through in-app surveys &  user studies.

How will the project be delivered?

Maternity units in the NHS Trusts will work alongside the LatchAid team (comprising technology, digital health, and breastfeeding-support specialists). The 12-months’ project will:

Plan: objectives/processes with NHS partners for informing expectant/new mothers and training support staff about LatchAid.

Do: LatchAid’s AI-powered virtual supporter chatbot will resolve over-80% enquiries and flag complex cases to LatchAid breastfeeding support team, who will escalate the most urgent/critical issues to NHS staff through a proprietary in-app/web-based pathway, through which they can respond to mothers directly.

Check: KPIs measurement tools, AI performance analysis, and regular meetings/communications with NHS partners are used to co-evaluate/co-refine technology, workflow and effectiveness.

Act/Adjust: Continuous improvement for triage/escalation/support workflows and technology. We apply a top-down risk management approach. A plan will be co-developed with NHS partners to ensure long term sustainability.

We’ll continuously involve Q members to share findings, key outcomes, and seek expertise, suggestions and support for workflow and service improvement.

How is your project going to share learning?

This project generates valuable learnings for the Q community on the feasibility, effectiveness and best practice of using digital breastfeeding support leveraging AI and real-life specialists within the NHS.

Key outcomes including mothers’ breastfeeding outcome, feeling of self-efficacy and NHS staff’s feedback on how this approach helps improve communication with mothers and increase their capacity in resolving complex issues, will be measured and shared. Analysis of conversational dataset using LatchAid will recognise prevalent challenges, important for informing future service development, health policies, and NHS staff training.

We will actively connect with Q members, especially AI and maternity projects for discussions and knowledge-sharing. LatchAid will produce a 9-months evaluation report to share with the Q Community / partners based on findings from questionnaires and tracked KPI metrics, contributing to research on
enhancing digital support. We’ll develop a social-media package to share key outcomes and run workshops & shared-learning events.

How you can contribute

  • Feedback on this proposal & plans to partner with NHS maternity/neonatal/paediatric/community services
  • Q members’ input into our impact evaluation, especially appreciative inquiry to decide how to embed and roll-out LatchAid tools and solutions with front-line staff, and to plan how to most effectively share our findings as we evaluate.
  • Assistance in providing appropriate educational, supportive, and informative webinars for app users on topics suggested by usage of the chat functions, with usefulness measured by uptake and questionnaires.
  • Ongoing support from Q Community members and partners to look at the scalability of rolling-out this programme and LatchAid product and services to NHS trusts and maternity services across the UK, based on the learnings of this project.

Plan timeline

1 Apr 2021 Co-define project objectives, management/monitoring/engagement plans
12 Apr 2021 Co-design methods for participants/staff enrollment & app usage/support training
19 Apr 2021 Co-define KPIs metrics, Patient-Reported-Outcome, and in-app checkpoint survey & measurement tools
26 Apr 2021 Co-design proprietary escalation, communication, support workflow and tools
3 May 2021 Develop in-app checkpoint KPIs-measurement and survey tools
24 May 2021 Customise LatchAid-app allowing NHS-staff to receive escalation-notifications & respond to mothers
5 Jul 2021 Roll-out app-pilot; PDCA-approach for workflow/tool evaluation & improvement; AI analysis/improvements
27 Sep 2021 Ongoing knowledge-sharing, engagement, and discussions with Q community
27 Dec 2021 Produce evaluation report and a social-media package for knowledge sharing
24 Jan 2022 Design and conduct workshops and shared-learning events
7 Feb 2022 Planning partners for deploying & scaling-up LatchAid to wider NHS trusts

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for your comment Emma - the team & I will definitely be checking out those other projects you've suggested. We are working on adding more detail into the bid ready for submission as well... hoping to update soon!

  2. Really interesting project. I'm working with the Health Foundation to connect Q members around Q Exchange.  There are a number of maternity-focused projects suggested this year (one of them even has AI in it) that you might want to have a look at and consider whether there is scope for collaboration. There are also quite a few projects around developing apps and AI which might also be of interest. I'd suggest your project could benefit from a bit more information as to how your would collaborate with others and what specifically you might use the funding for. It's also worth having a look at some of the technology and digital groups that are ran by members within the community.  They may be interested to hear your ideas.  Good luck! best wishes, Emma

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