Baby on mothers chest

Secondary care

Breastfeeding clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital

Åsa Söderlund

Getting started with breastfeeding is not always easy. The midwives at Sahlgrenska University Hospital know this well, as they provide advice and support new mothers, not only in their physical reception but also via video consultations. It is certainly a beautiful thing for a new mother and her baby to get help in the safety of their home. While phone calls have their limitations, a video consultation adds an extra dimension with the ability to have visual contact and provide targeted instructions.

The breastfeeding clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital is a specialist clinic that offers breastfeeding support when the help of the neonatal unit or the paediatrician is not enough.

After Västra Götaland region partnered with Visiba Care for their virtual clinic platform in the autumn of 2018, the breastfeeding reception was one of the first specialist care units to get on board. Their aim was to increase accessibility, improve the quality of breastfeeding support and assistance, particularly with complicated cases, and to use the reception’s resources more efficiently.

Since the deployment in June 2019, the reception has conducted over 800 online consultations. Today, the reception offers both bookable times for new mothers as well as drop-in through VGR’s virtual clinic (Mitt Vårdmöte). The reception has caught more eyes than just new mothers; The breastfeeding reception won the Quality Award for 2019 (in Swedish) for their excellent work in establishing new ways of working and for increasing the feeling of security in mothers who breastfeed with the help of technology. We met Margareta Risenfors, Head of the Breastfeeding reception unit, and Anna-Karin Ringqvist, business developer, who was a driving force in the development of the digital project. In this video, they share their tips for their peers who are considering offering online consultations in their healthcare organisation.

How the service works for mothers

A mother who wants to get in touch with the breastfeeding clinic online, downloads the app Mitt Vårdmöte and looks up ‘Breastfeeding reception SU’. Here she can book a time with a midwife or enter a drop-in waiting room. If she has met a specific midwife at the reception before, she can keep the same contact person for an online consultation, which can feel comfortable and easier. Before the consultation, the mother fills in a form with questions customised by the reception, which enables the midwife to be well-prepared for the consultation.


Valuable for mothers and staff alike

Initially, the staff were a bit sceptical of the new technology, but it quickly faded away when they realised the value of meeting remotely for both staff and new mothers. The new mothers can get help quickly and the video format has helped them understand the instructions and advice from midwives, even in cases where there was a language barrier. Their data shows that visitors of the breastfeeding virtual reception are satisfied with the service. In the breastfeeding reception’s patient survey that was distributed in Autumn 2019, 96% of the responders said that they were satisfied with the online consultation. 92% were satisfied with how quickly they got in touch with a midwife and 83% felt that they got the help they needed through the online consultation.

As for the staff, online consultations have helped them reduce stress at work. Before the virtual reception, new mothers would leave in a voicemail requesting to be contacted later by a midwife at the reception. Nevertheless, it was challenging to manage the incoming flow of messages and particularly stressful, when they could not reach the women at a time that worked for them.

The impact on the clinic

The breastfeeding virtual reception has also brought positive results to the clinic as a whole. A physical visit to the breastfeeding reception lasts about 60 minutes, whereas their average online consultation time is 20 minutes. Consequently, the clinic can help more new mothers in the same amount of time. In addition, online consultations are more focused because the mothers are better prepared and feel safer and more comfortable in their home environment, thus increasing the quality of the meeting.

What does the future hold?

After the success of online consultations on mothers with breastfeeding issues, there are now thoughts on which additional issues could be managed digitally. One option is to introduce online consultations for after-care follow-up appointments, so that women who breastfeed don’t have to visit the reception on location for advice and support, but instead get help directly at home.