Realist inquiry into Maternity care @ a Distance (ARM@DA): realist review protocol

BMJ Open. 2022 Sep 20;12(9):e062106. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-062106.


Introduction: One of the most commonly reported COVID-19-related changes to all maternity services has been an increase in the use of digital clinical consultations such as telephone or video calling; however, the ways in which they can be optimally used along maternity care pathways remain unclear. It is imperative that digital service innovations do not further exacerbate (and, ideally, should tackle) existing inequalities in service access and clinical outcomes. Using a realist approach, this project aims to synthesise the evidence around implementation of digital clinical consultations, seeking to illuminate how they can work to support safe, personalised and appropriate maternity care and to clarify when they might be most appropriately used, for whom, when, and in what contexts?

Methods and analysis: The review will be conducted in four iterative phases, with embedded stakeholder involvement: (1) refining the review focus and generating initial programme theories, (2) exploring and developing the programme theories in light of evidence, (3) testing/refining the programme theories and (4) constructing actionable recommendations. The review will draw on four sources of evidence: (1) published literature (searching nine bibliographic databases), (2) unpublished (grey) literature, including research, audit, evaluation and policy documents (derived from Google Scholar, website searches and e-thesis databases), (3) expertise contributed by service user and health professional stakeholder groups (n=20-35) and (4) key informant interviews (n=12). Included papers will consist of any study design, in English and from 2010 onwards. The review will follow the Realist and Meta-narrative Evidence Synthesis Evolving Standards quality procedures and reporting guidance.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval has been obtained from the University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Ethics Committee (FMHS 426-1221). Informed consent will be obtained for all key informant interviews. Findings will be disseminated in a range of formats relevant to different audiences.

Prospero registration number: CRD42021288702.

Keywords: Maternal medicine; Organisation of health services; QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; STATISTICS & RESEARCH METHODS; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Obstetrics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Research Design
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic