[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The simulated client (SC) method for evaluating health worker performance utilizes surveyors who pose as patients to make surreptitious observations during consultations. Compared to conspicuous observation (CO) by surveyors, which is commonly done in developing countries, SC data better reflect usual health worker practices. This information is important because CO can cause performance to be better than usual. Despite this advantage of SCs, the method's full potential has not been realized for evaluating performance for pediatric illnesses because real children have not been utilized as SCs. Previous SC studies used scenarios of ill children that were not actually brought to health workers. During a trial that evaluated a quality improvement intervention in Benin (the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness [IMCI] strategy), we conducted an SC survey with adult caretakers as surveyors and real children to evaluate the feasibility of this approach and used the results to assess the validity of CO. METHODS: We conducted an SC survey and a CO survey (one right after the other) of health workers in the same 55 health facilities. A detailed description of the SC survey process was produced. Results of the two surveys were compared for 27 performance indicators using logistic regression modeling. RESULTS: SC and CO surveyors observed 54 and 185 consultations, respectively. No serious problems occurred during the SC survey. Performance levels measured by CO were moderately higher than those measured by SCs (median CO - SC difference = 16.4 percentage-points). Survey differences were sometimes much greater for IMCI-trained health workers (median difference = 29.7 percentage-points) than for workers without IMCI training (median difference = 3.1 percentage-points). CONCLUSION: SC surveys can be done safely with real children if appropriate precautions are taken. CO can introduce moderately large positive biases, and these biases might be greater for health workers exposed to quality improvement interventions. Trial number http://clinicaltrials.gov Identifier NCT00510679.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: National malaria control programmes and their partners must document progress associated with investments in malaria control. While documentation has been achieved through population-based surveys for most interventions, measuring changes in malaria case management has been challenging because the increasing use of diagnostic tests reduces the denominator of febrile children who should receive anti-malarial treatment. Thus the widely used indicator, "proportion of children under five with fever in the last two weeks who received anti-malarial treatment according to national policy within 24 hours from onset of fever" is no longer relevant.
An alternative sequence of indicators using a systems effectiveness approach was examined using data from nationally representative surveys in Zambia: the 2012 population-based malaria indictor survey (MIS) and the 2011 health facility survey (HFS). The MIS measured fever treatment-seeking behaviour among 972 children under five years (CU5) and 1,848 people age five years and above. The HFS assessed management of 435 CU5 and 429 people age five and above with fever/history of fever seeking care at 149 health facilities. Consultation observation and exit interviews measured use of diagnostic tests, artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) prescription, and patient comprehension of prescribed regimens.
Systems effectiveness for malaria case management among CU5 was estimated as follows: [100% ACT efficacy] x [55% fever treatment-seeking from an appropriate provider (MIS)] x [71% malaria blood testing (HFS)] x [86% ACT prescription for positive cases (HFS)] x [73% patient comprehension of prescribed ACT drug regimens (HFS)] = 25%. Systems effectiveness for malaria case management among people age five and above was estimated at 15%.
Tracking progress in malaria case management coverage can no longer rely solely on population-based surveys; the way forward likely entails household surveys to track trends in fever treatment-seeking behaviour, and facility/provider data to track appropriate management of febrile patients. Applying health facility and population-based data to the systems effectiveness framework provides a cogent and feasible approach to documenting malaria case management coverage and identifying gaps to direct program action. In Zambia, this approach identified treatment-seeking behaviour as the largest contributor to reduction in systems effectiveness for malaria case management.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Improving malaria case management is partially dependent on health worker compliance with clinical guidelines. This study assessed health worker factors associated with correct anti-malarial prescribing practices at two sites in rural Tanzania.
Repeated cross-sectional health facility surveys were conducted during high and low malaria transmission seasons in 2010 and collected information on patient consultations and health worker characteristics. Using logistic regression, the study assessed health worker factors associated with correct prescription for uncomplicated malaria defined as prescription of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for patients with fever and Plasmodium falciparum asexual infection based on blood slide or malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) according to national treatment guidelines.
The analysis included 685 patients with uncomplicated malaria who were seen in a health facility with ACT in stock, and 71 health workers practicing in 30 health facilities. Overall, 58% of malaria patients were correctly treated with ACT. Health workers with three or more years' work experience were significantly more likely than others to prescribe correctly (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 2.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2-7.1; p = 0.019). Clinical officers (aOR 2.2; 95% CI 1.1-4.5; p = 0.037), and nurse aide or lower cadre (aOR 3.1; 95% CI 1.3-7.1; p = 0.009) were more likely to correctly prescribe ACT than medical officers. Training on ACT use, supervision visits, and availability of job aids were not significantly associated with correct prescription.
Years of working experience and health worker cadre were associated with correct ACT prescription for uncomplicated malaria. Targeted interventions to improve health worker performance are needed to improve overall malaria case management.
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