Original Research

Supporting rural midwifery practice using a mobile health (mHealth) intervention: a qualitative descriptive study


Alan H White1 MRes, Director *

Susan A Crowther2 PhD, Professor of Midwifery

Siew Hwa Lee3 PhD, MPHE, FHEA, Researcher and Lecturer


1, 2, 3 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen AB10 7QG, Scotland

ACCEPTED: 11 June 2019

early abstract:

Introduction: Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy account for 12% of all maternal deaths globally. The risks of sub-optimal outcomes from these disorders might be greater in rural and remote locations. These potential risks might be related to poor intra and inter-professional communications due to geographic and digital isolation. Studies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) suggest that improving communications is essential and that mobile health (mHealth) interventions can improve outcomes.  However, for such interventions to be successful they must involve midwives in any design and software development. This study explored how a mHealth intervention might support midwives in the management of women with pre-eclampsia in Scottish rural and remote locations.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was adopted. Rural and remote practicing community midwives (n = 18) were recruited to participate in three focus groups.  The data were gathered through digital recordings of conversations at these focus groups. Recordings were transcribed and thematically analysed. Themes were agreed by consensus with the research team in an iterative process.

Results: Five principal themes were identified: ‘working in isolation’; ‘encountering women with pre-eclampsia in rural and remote settings’; ‘learning on the move’; ‘using audio-visual resources’ and ‘unease with advances in technology'.

Conclusion: Geographic and digital isolation poses significant challenges to rural midwifery practice in a high income country such as Scotland.  Midwives need to be involved in the development of mHealth interventions for them to be acceptable and tailored to their needs in a rural and remote context.The study highlights how mHealth interventions can support Continuous Professional Development (CPD) whilst on the move with no internet connectivity. However, pride in current practice and unease with advances in mobile technology are   barriers to the adoption of a mHealth intervention.  mHealth interventions could be of value to other specialised healthcare practitioners in these regions, including GPs, to manage women with complications in their pregnancies.