Introduction Suboptimal electronic fetal heart rate monitoring (EFM) in labour using cardiotocography (CTG) has been identified as one of the most common causes of avoidable harm in maternity care. Training staff is a frequently proposed solution to reduce harm. However, current approaches to training are heterogeneous in content and format, making it difficult to assess effectiveness. Technological solutions, such as digital decision support, have not yet demonstrated improved outcomes. Effective improvement strategies require in-depth understanding of the technical and social mechanisms underpinning the EFM process. The aim of this study is to advance current knowledge of the types of errors, hazards and failure modes in the process of classifying, interpreting and responding to CTG traces. This study is part of a broader research programme aimed at developing and testing an intervention to improve intrapartum EFM. Methods and analysis The study is organised into two workstreams. First, we will conduct observations and interviews in three UK maternity units to gain an in-depth understanding of how intrapartum EFM is performed in routine clinical practice. Data analysis will combine the insights of an ethnographic approach (focused on the social norms and interactions, values and meanings that appear to be linked with the process of EFM) with a systems thinking approach (focused on modelling processes, actors and their interactions). Second, we will use risk analysis techniques to develop a framework of the errors, hazards and failure modes that affect intrapartum EFM. Ethics and dissemination This study has been approved by the West Midlands - South Birmingham Research Ethics Committee, reference number: 18/WM/0292. Dissemination will take the form of academic articles in peer-reviewed journals and conferences, along with tailored communication with various stakeholders in maternity care.
- electronic fetal heartrate monitoring
- fetal medicine
- qualitative research
- quality in health care
- risk management