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Building Laboratory Capacity to Strengthen Health Systems

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Abstract

The diagnostic laboratory is essential to patient care and to the achievement of health equity. Through the development of quality laboratories in settings burdened by poverty and weak health systems, Partners In Health has demonstrated the critical contributions of clinical laboratories to the care of patients with HIV, tuberculosis, and cancer, among other conditions. The lessons learned through the organization's experience include the importance of well-trained and well-supported staff; reliable access to supplies, reagents, and diagnostic equipment; adequate facilities to provide diagnostic services; the integration of laboratories into networks of care; and accompaniment of the public health sector.

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... Partners In Health's health system strengthening model -also referred to as 'stuff, staff, space, and systems' -incorporates investments in materials, human resources, facilities, and systems. 20 This comprehensive approach was applied to our laboratory programme, aiming to improve quality from pre-to post-analytical stages of diagnostics, while meeting national strategies and offering the services described in MOHS policies. 15,18 In the first year of the intervention, the programme focused on the most crucial or attainable issues (listed below), while laying a foundation for continuous and structural improvements. ...
... These established 'beacon facilities' serve the poorest populations, function as teaching sites, and are considered a model for health service provision on national and regional levels. 20 While partnering with governments is central to rebuilding public health infrastructure, it may also limit certain programmatic decisions. For example, PIH aims to offer free health care for all, but the Sierra Leone public system and many other health services in low-resource countries are based on cost recovery. ...
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Background: The 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak exposed the poor laboratory systems in Sierra Leone. Immense needs were recognised across all areas, from facilities, diagnostic capacity, supplies, trained personnel to quality assurance mechanisms. Objective: We aimed to describe the first year of a comprehensive intervention, which started in 2015, in a public hospital’s general laboratory serving a population of over 500 000 in a rural district. Methods: The intervention focused on (1) supporting local authorities and healthcare workers in policy implementation and developing procedures to enhance access to services, (2) addressing gaps by investing in infrastructure, supplies, and equipment, (3) development of quality assurance mechanisms via mentorship, bench-side training, and the introduction of quality control and information systems. All work was performed alongside counterparts from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Results: We observed a strong increase in patient visits and inpatient and outpatient testing volumes. Novel techniques and procedures were taken up well by staff, leading to improved and expanded service and safety, laying foundations for further improvements. Conclusion: This comprehensive approach was successful and the results suggest an increase in trust from patients and healthcare workers.
... BCCOE took a step-wise approach to developing pathology services and capacity starting from basic services to including telepathology and then implementing immunohistochemistry and GeneXpert molecular testing capacity while also training on-site pathologists [23]. The American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) leadership, already familiar with this stepwise progression of pathology capacity, selected BCCOE to be the first site globally to receive the high output and automated technologies necessary to become a regional telepathology center [24]. Building on BCCOE capacity, the BCCOE pathology program has also supported the stepwise progression of pathology programs at subsequent cancer centers in Rwanda and other LICs [25]. ...
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Background: The majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa are ill-prepared to address the rising burden of cancer. While some have been able to establish a single cancer referral center, few have been able to scale-up services nationally towards universal health coverage. The literature lacks a step-wise implementation approach for resource-limited countries to move beyond a single-facility implementation strategy and implement a national cancer strategy to expand effective coverage. Methods: We applied an implementation science framework, which describes a four-phase approach: Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, and Sustainment (EPIS). Through this framework, we describe Rwanda’s approach to establish not just a single cancer center, but a national cancer program. Results: By applying EPIS to Rwanda’s implementation approach, we analyzed and identified the implementation strategies and factors, which informed processes of each phase to establish foundational cancer delivery components, including trained staff, diagnostic technology, essential medicines, and medical informatics. These cancer delivery components allowed for the implementation of Rwanda’s first cancer center, while simultaneously serving as the nidus for capacity building of foundational components for future cancer centers. Conclusion: This “progressive scaling” approach ensured that initial investments in the country’s first cancer center was a step toward establishing future cancer centers in the country.
... Laboratory capacity, a foundational element of health security, can be weakened in LMICs by workforce and infrastructure limitations. [140][141][142] Broadening laboratory capacity beyond a singular focus on infectious pathogens to include chronic disease testing capabilities creates a path forward to filling gaps in comprehensive care 143,144 while avoiding duplicate testing and supply chain costs. 145,146 For example, a standardized national laboratory logistics system in Ethiopia, designed to meet the supply needs of individual laboratories, greatly reduced patient wait times for tests from multiple months to less than a day. ...
Article
Noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors are important for all aspects of outbreak preparedness and response, affecting a range of factors including host susceptibility, pathogen virulence, and health system capacity. This conceptual analysis has 2 objectives. First, we use the Haddon matrix paradigm to formulate a framework for assessing the relevance of noncommunicable diseases to health security efforts throughout all phases of the disaster life cycle: before, during, and after an event. Second, we build upon this framework to identify 6 technical action areas in global health security programs that are opportune integration points for global health security and noncommunicable disease objectives: surveillance, workforce development, laboratory systems, immunization, risk communication, and sustainable financing. We discuss approaches to integration with the goal of maximizing the reach of global health security where infectious disease threats and chronic disease burdens overlap.
... These labs had limited capacity to perform even basic tissue processing functions such as making tissue blocks, mounting slides, and hematoxylin and eosin staining, whereas more advanced testing, including immunohistochemistry and molecular diagnostics, was unavailable anywhere in the country. In order to mitigate these deficiencies, HUM developed a formal collaboration with external partners, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, whereby many patients treated at HUM had their tissue samples sent outside the country for diagnostic pathology [39]. A pathology lab became functional at HUM in 2016. ...
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Background: There are few studies on breast cancer outcomes in the Caribbean region. This study identified a retrospective cohort of female patients with nonmetastatic breast cancer in Haiti and conducted survival analyses to identify prognostic factors that may affect patient outcomes. Methods: The cohort included 341 patients presenting between June 2012 and December 2016. The primary endpoint was event-free survival (EFS), defined as time to disease progression, recurrence, or death. Descriptive summaries of patient characteristics and treatments were reported. Survival curves were plotted using Kaplan-Meier estimation. Multivariate survival analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: Median age at diagnosis was 49 years, with 64.2% being premenopausal. Most patients (55.1%) were staged as locally advanced. One hundred and sixty patients received neoadjuvant therapy: 33.3% of patients with early stage disease and 61.2% of those with locally advanced stage disease. Curative-intent surgery was performed in 278 (81.5%) patients, and 225 patients received adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant endocrine therapy was used in 82.0% of patients with estrogen receptor-positive disease. During the follow-up period, 28 patients died, 77 had disease recurrence, and 10 had progressive disease. EFS rates at 2 year and 3 years were 80.9% and 63.4%, respectively. After controlling for multiple confounders, the locally advanced stage group had a statistically significant adjusted hazard ratio for EFS of 3.27 compared with early stage. Conclusion: Patients with nonmetastatic breast cancer in Haiti have more advanced disease, poorer prognostic factors and worse outcomes compared with patients in high-income countries. Despite several limitations, curative treatment is possible in Haiti. Implications for practice: Patients with breast cancer in Haiti have poor outcomes. Prior studies show that most Haitian patients are diagnosed at later stages. However, there are no rigorous studies describing how late-stage diagnosis and other prognostic factors affect outcomes in this population. This study presents a detailed analysis of survival outcomes and assessment of prognostic factors in patients with nonmetastatic breast cancer treated in Haiti. In addition to late-stage diagnosis, other unfavorable prognostic factors identified were young age, and estrogen receptor-negative disease. The study also highlights that the availability of basic breast cancer treatment in Haiti can lead to promising early patient outcomes.
... (p. 102) 10 Laboratories worldwide suffer from scarcities of skilled or qualified staff. Payment for laboratory technicians and other categories of laboratory workers is lower than other specialties, and periodically delayed. ...
... These labs had limited capacity to perform even basic tissue processing functions such as making tissue blocks, mounting slides, and hematoxylin and eosin staining, whereas more advanced testing, including immunohistochemistry and molecular diagnostics, was unavailable anywhere in the country. In order to mitigate these deficiencies, HUM developed a formal collaboration with external partners, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, whereby many patients treated at HUM had their tissue samples sent outside the country for diagnostic pathology [39]. A pathology lab became functional at HUM in 2016. ...
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e18196 Background: Few studies have reported outcomes of breast cancer (BC) patients in Haiti. Since 2013, University Hospital Mirebalais, a tertiary government hospital, has offered treatment for BC, in partnership with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Zanmi Lasante, a Haitian non-profit. Standard chemotherapy and hormone therapy are available, but HER2 therapies and radiation are not. Here, we comprehensively describe patient characteristics, treatments delivered and outcomes of non-metastatic BC patients in this program. Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational study including 339 patients with non-metastatic BC, who presented between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2016. We conducted detailed chart abstraction of patient characteristics, clinical diagnostic and treatment data, and outcomes. Our endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS) defined as time from presentation to cancer recurrence, progression or death. We used Kaplan-Meier estimation to plot survival curves, censoring at the time of last follow-up. Log-rank test was used to examine subgroup differences. Results: The median age in the cohort was 49, inter-quartile range of 42 to 58; 35.7% were post-menopausal. Invasive ductal carcinoma was the most common histology (65.5%). At presentation, 52.8% had T3/T4 disease, while 54.6% had locally advanced disease, and 37.5% were poorly differentiated. There was incomplete documentation of stage (18.3%), ER status (44.2%) and histologic grade (39.5%). 156 patients received neoadjuvant therapy with hormonal therapy (26.2%), chemotherapy (67.9%), or both (5.8%), while 227 received adjuvant therapy (25.5%, 26.5% and 48.0% respectively). 275 patients (81%) completed surgical resection. Median follow up time for the cohort was 24.8 months. 23 patients died; 75 had recurrences; and 9 had progression. Median DFS was 50.8 months (95% CI, 40.6 to 57.0). There was no DFS difference by ER status. Median DFS for early-stage patients was not reached compared to locally advanced patients of 40.4 months (95% CI, 34.0 to 49.7), P-value < 0.0001. Conclusions: Non-metastatic BC patients in Haiti present with more advanced disease and have poorer prognostic factors compared to high-income countries. Although these patients have comparatively worse outcome, curative treatment is feasible in Haiti.
... There is a paucity of adequate microbiological diagnostic capacity in many settings, limiting clinicians' ability to tailor antimicrobial therapy to local pathogen and resistance profiles or individual patients' pathogen sensitivity and resistance patterns, as is recommended in many sepsis management guidelines [40]. Diagnostic capacity extends beyond just physical components of microbiology laboratories such as reliable access to consumable supplies, and includes staffing with adequate numbers of appropriately trained professionals such as phlebotomists and laboratory technicians, as well as necessary oversight and enforcement of good clinical laboratory practice [41]. ...
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Sepsis is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. The majority of sepsis cases and deaths are estimated to occur in low and middle-income countries. Barriers to reducing the global burden of sepsis include difficulty quantifying attributable morbidity and mortality, low awareness, poverty and health inequity, and under-resourced and low-resilience public health and acute health care delivery systems. Important differences in the populations at risk, infecting pathogens, and clinical capacity to manage sepsis in high and low-resource settings necessitate context-specific approaches to this significant problem. We review these challenges and propose strategies to overcome them. These strategies include strengthening health systems, accurately identifying and quantifying sepsis cases, conducting inclusive research, establishing data-driven and context-specific management guidelines, promoting creative clinical interventions, and advocacy.
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Background: Health systems in the Central Africa region are among the weakest and least funded in the world. The lack of laboratory networks and adequately trained personnel with clearly defined responsibilities has hampered the implementation of laboratory quality improvement programmes. Global Health Systems Solutions (GHSS) obtained a grant from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to develop laboratory networks for disease surveillance and strengthen the quality of laboratory testing in the Central Africa region. Intervention: One year after the grant was awarded on 01 October 2018, GHSS has launched a Regional Integrated Surveillance and Laboratory Network (RISLNET) for Central Africa and developed National Laboratory Strategic Plans and Policies for member states, eight frameworks and guideline documents, as well as a website for RISLNET Central Africa. GHSS has also launched an Extension for Community Health Outcomes platform to supervise laboratories enrolled for accreditation, installed a Basic Laboratory Information System (BLIS) in four laboratories in four member states, and trained 247 laboratory personnel and laboratory experts on BLIS, quality assurance, external quality assurance, Strengthening Laboratory Management Towards Accreditation (SLMTA), quality management systems, and equipment maintenance and calibration. Lessons learnt: Participating laboratories now serve as reference laboratories for COVID-19 testing in various countries. Point-of-care testing, using the GeneXpert platform, has been the central strategy for the scale-up of COVID-19 testing in the Central Africa region. Recommendations: Expanding SLMTA to other laboratories within Central Africa will significantly improve the quality management of laboratories for a better healthcare system.
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Untreated active tuberculosis (TB) has a very high long-term mortality. Treatment of TB reduces mortality dramatically and should maximize cure, preventing ongoing transmission and TB sequelae. However, predicting the risk of failure and relapse is crucial for the management of individual patients and for the evaluation of effectiveness of programs. Various outcome definitions for drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB were developed, implemented, and endorsed since introduction of TB chemotherapy by the World Health Organization (WHO), mostly based on culture and smear results. They should be applicable for individual patient care, surveillance, and research. Definitions with focus on program evaluation differ from definitions to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of regimens. Lack of sputum production at the later stage of treatment reduces the easy applicability of current definitions. Definitions of failure and cure are sometimes difficult to apply. Alternative approaches suggest culture positivity at 6 months or more of treatment as an indicator for failure. New definitions for cure including a relapse-free period posttreatment and reduced number of culture and smear results are considered. Increasing variation and individualization of treatment and its duration urgently require new approaches using pathogen- or host-specific biomarkers, which indicate risk of failure and define cure. Such biomarkers are under evaluation but still far from translation in clinical routine practice.
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developed the original conceptual framework for the project, secured funding, co-developed the research design, contributed to the analysis, provided feedback on the first draft and contributed to the writing of the final draft.
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Background: The greatest burden of sepsis- and septic shock-related morbidity and mortality is in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Accurate tracking of incidence and outcomes of patients in LMICs with sepsis has been limited by changing definitions, lack of diagnosis coding and health records, and deficits in personnel. Improving sepsis care in LMICs requires studying outcomes prospectively so that setting appropriate definitions, scoring systems, and treatment guidelines can be created. Our goal is to review the burden of sepsis and septic shock in LMICs, the evolution and applicability of definitions to LMICs, and management. Methods: The literature was searched through PubMed using a Boolean approach and the following terms: sepsis, septic shock, low- and middle-income countries. Articles were read by the authors and relevant information was abstracted and included with citations to create a narrative review. Results: The estimated worldwide incidence of sepsis admissions is 31.5 million cases per year leading to 5.3 million deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged LMICs to establish sepsis prevalence and outcomes. Most authors and societies involved in creating sepsis and septic shock definitions have been from high-income countries (HICs). Applicability of sepsis definitions in LMICs is uncertain. Quick-Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) and universal vital assessment (UVA) are useful screening and triage tools in LMICs because they can be done at the bedside. The key tenets of management of sepsis and septic shock in LMICs include early fluid resuscitation and antibiotic therapy coupled with source control when there is a surgical process. Surgical causes of sepsis should be identified rapidly. Scaling up surgical capacity in LMICs is an important step to improve source control of sepsis. Conclusion: Management guidelines specific to LMICs for sepsis and septic shock need to be refined further and studied prospectively. Improving access to surgery will improve outcomes of surgical cases of sepsis.
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Purpose: The cost of providing cancer care in low-income countries remains largely unknown, which creates a significant barrier to effective planning and resource allocation. This study examines the cost of providing comprehensive cancer care at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE) in Rwanda. Methods: A retrospective costing analysis was conducted from the provider perspective by using secondary data from the administrative systems of the BCCOE. We identified the start-up funds necessary to begin initial implementation and determined the fiscal year 2013-2014 operating cost of the cancer program, including capital expenditures and fixed and variable costs. Results: A total of $556,105 US dollars was assessed as necessary start-up funding to implement the program. The annual operating cost of the cancer program was found to be $957,203 US dollars. Radiotherapy, labor, and chemotherapy were the most significant cost drivers. Radiotherapy services, which require sending patients out of country because there are no radiation units in Rwanda, comprised 25% of program costs, labor accounted for 21%, and chemotherapy, supportive medications, and consumables accounted for 15%. Overhead, training, computed tomography scans, surgeries, blood products, pathology, and social services accounted for less than 10% of the total. Conclusion: This study is one of the first to examine operating costs for implementing a cancer center in a low-income country. Having a strong commitment to cancer care, adapting clinical protocols to the local setting, shifting tasks, and creating collaborative partnerships make it possible for BCCOE to provide quality cancer care at a fraction of the cost seen in middle- and high-income countries, which has saved many lives and improved survival. Not all therapies, though, were available because of limited financial resources.
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Introduction Health laboratory services are a critical component of national health systems but face major operational challenges in resource-limited (RL) settings. New funding for health systems strengthening in RL countries has increased the demand for diagnostics and provided opportunities to address these constraints. An approach to sustainably strengthen national laboratory systems in sub-Saharan African countries is the Strengthening Laboratory Management Toward Accreditation (SLMTA) programme. External Quality Assessment (EQA) is a requirement for laboratory accreditation. EQA comprises proficiency testing (PT), rechecking of samples and on-site evaluation. Materials and methods A systematic literature search was conducted to identify studies addressing laboratory EQA and quality monitoring in RL countries. Unpublished reports were also sought from national laboratory authorities and personnel. Results PT schemes in RL countries are provided by commercial companies, institutions in developed countries and national programmes. Most government-supported PT schemes address single diseases using a vertical approach. Regional approaches to delivering PT have also been implemented across RL countries. Rechecking schemes address mainly tuberculosis (TB), malaria and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); integrated rechecking programmes have been piloted. Constraints include sample transportation, communication of results, unknown proficiency of referee staff and limited resources for corrective action. Global competency assessment standards for malaria microscopists have been established. Conclusions EQA is vital for monitoring laboratory performance and maintaining quality of laboratory services, and is a valuable tool for identifying and assessing technology in use, identifying gaps in laboratory performance and targeting training needs. Accreditation of PT providers and competency of EQA personnel must be ensured.
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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could potentially be used to transport microbiological specimens. To examine the impact of UAVs on microbiological specimens, blood and sputum culture specimens were seeded with usual pathogens and flown in a UAV for 30 ± 2 min. Times to recovery, colony counts, morphologies, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS)-based identifications of the flown and stationary specimens were similar for all microbes studied. Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
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Many diagnostic tests are required for fulfilling the health care needs of populations. A Model List of Essential Diagnostics could play a global health policy role similar to that of the Model List of Essential Medicines maintained by the World Health Organization.
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Background. Nonstandardized specimen logistics, laboratory personnel transporting specimens, no standard specimen containers, and long turnaround time (TAT) hindered access to quality laboratory services. The objective of the Becton Dickinson (BD)-US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) Public Private Partnership (PPP) was to support country-specific programs to develop integrated laboratory systems, services, and quality improvement strategies with emphasis on strengthening the Specimen Referral System (SRS). Methods. In 2007, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) joined with the BD-PEPFAR PPP to strengthen laboratory systems. A joint planning and assessment identified gaps in the SRS for prioritization and intervention, and piloted in Addis Ababa and Amhara regions. Results. The PPP established standardized, streamlined specimen logistics using the Ethiopian Postal Service Enterprise (EPSE) to support a laboratory network where 554 facilities referred specimens to 160 laboratories. PPP supported procuring 400 standard specimen containers and training of 586laboratory personnel and 81 postal workers. The average TAT was reduced from 7 days to 2 days in Addis Ababa and from 10 days to 5 days in Amhara region. Conclusions. This study highlights the feasibility and untapped potential of PPP to strengthen laboratory systems. This planned and structured approach to improving specimen referral enhanced access to quality laboratory services. Keywords. specimen referral system; training; public-private partnership; postal system; turn around time
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Background: Cancer services are inaccessible in many low-income countries, and few published examples describe oncology programs within the public sector. In 2011, the Rwanda Ministry of Health (RMOH) established Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE) to expand cancer services nationally. In hopes of informing cancer care delivery in similar settings, we describe program-level experience implementing BCCOE, patient characteristics, and challenges encountered. Methods: Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence was founded on diverse partnerships that emphasize capacity building. Services available include pathology-based diagnosis, basic imaging, chemotherapy, surgery, referral for radiotherapy, palliative care and socioeconomic access supports. Retrospective review of electronic medical records (EMR) of patients enrolled between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 was conducted, supplemented by manual review of paper charts and programmatic records. Results: In the program's first 2 years, 2326 patients presented for cancer-related care. Of these, 70.5 % were female, 4.3 % children, and 74.3 % on public health insurance. In the first year, 66.3 % (n = 1144) were diagnosed with cancer. Leading adult diagnoses were breast, cervical, and skin cancer. Among children, nephroblastoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Hodgkin lymphoma were predominant. As of June 30, 2013, 95 cancer patients had died. Challenges encountered include documentation gaps and staff shortages. Conclusion: Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence demonstrates that complex cancer care can be delivered in the most resource-constrained settings, accessible to vulnerable patients. Key attributes that have made BCCOE possible are: meaningful North-south partnerships, innovative task- and infrastructure-shifting, RMOH leadership, and an equity-driven agenda. Going forward, we will apply our experiences and lessons learned to further strengthen BCCOE, and employ the developed EMR system as a valuable platform to assess long-term clinical outcomes and improve care.
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Purpose Connecting a cancer patient to the appropriate treatment requires the correct diagnosis provided in a timely manner. In resource-limited settings, the anatomic pathology bridge to efficient, accurate, and timely cancer care is often challenging. In this study, we present the first phase of an anatomic telepathology triage system, which was implemented and validated at the Butaro District Hospital in northern rural Rwanda. Methods Select cases over a 9-month period in three segments were evaluated by static image telepathology and were independently evaluated by standard glass slide histology. Each case via telepathology was classified as malignant, benign, infectious/inflammatory, or nondiagnostic and was given an exact histologic diagnosis. Results For cases triaged as appropriate for telepathology, correlation with classification and exact diagnosis demonstrated greater than 95% agreement over the study. Cases in which there was disagreement were analyzed for cause, and the triage process was adjusted to avoid future problems. Conclusion Challenges to obtaining a correct and complete diagnosis with telepathology alone included the need for immunohistochemistry, assessment of the quality of images, and the lack of images representing an entire sample. The next phase of the system will assess the effect of telepathology triage on turnaround time and the value of on-site immunohistochemistry in reducing that metric and the need for evaluation outside of telepathology.
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Objectives: Regular and quality CD4 testing is essential to monitor disease progression in people living with HIV. In Haiti, most laboratories have limited infrastructure and financial resources and have relied on manual laboratory techniques. We report the successful implementation of a national specimen referral network to rapidly increase patient coverage with quality CD4 testing while at the same time building infrastructure for referral of additional sample types over time. Method: Following a thorough baseline analysis of facilities, expected workload, patient volumes, cost of technology and infrastructure constraints at health institutions providing care to HIV patients, the Haitian National Public Health Laboratory designed and implemented a national specimen referral network. The specimen referral network was scaled up in a step-wise manner from July 2011 to July 2014. Results: Fourteen hubs serving a total of 67 healthcare facilities have been launched; in addition, 10 healthcare facilities operate FACSCount machines, 21 laboratories operate PIMA machines, and 11 healthcare facilities are still using manual CD4 tests. The number of health institutions able to access automated CD4 testing has increased from 27 to 113 (315%). Testing volume increased 76% on average. The number of patients enrolled on ART at the first healthcare facilities to join the network increased 182% within 6 months following linkage to the network. Performance on external quality assessment was acceptable at all 14 hubs. Conclusion: A specimen referral network has enabled rapid uptake of quality CD4 testing, and served as a backbone to allow for other future tests to be scaled-up in a similar way.
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Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS or drones) could potentially be used for the routine transport of small goods such as diagnostic clinical laboratory specimens. To the best of our knowledge, there is no published study of the impact of UAS transportation on laboratory tests. Three paired samples were obtained from each one of 56 adult volunteers in a single phlebotomy event (336 samples total): two tubes each for chemistry, hematology, and coagulation testing respectively. 168 samples were driven to the flight field and held stationary. The other 168 samples were flown in the UAS for a range of times, from 6 to 38 minutes. After the flight, 33 of the most common chemistry, hematology, and coagulation tests were performed. Statistical methods as well as performance criteria from four distinct clinical, academic, and regulatory bodies were used to evaluate the results. Results from flown and stationary sample pairs were similar for all 33 analytes. Bias and intercepts were <10% and <13% respectively for all analytes. Bland-Altman comparisons showed a mean difference of 3.2% for Glucose and <1% for other analytes. Only bicarbonate did not meet the strictest (Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Program) performance criteria. This was due to poor precision rather than bias. There were no systematic differences between laboratory-derived (analytic) CV's and the CV's of our flown versus terrestrial sample pairs however CV's from the sample pairs tended to be slightly higher than analytic CV's. The overall concordance, based on clinical stratification (normal versus abnormal), was 97%. Length of flight had no impact on the results. Transportation of laboratory specimens via small UASs does not affect the accuracy of routine chemistry, hematology, and coagulation tests results from selfsame samples. However it results in slightly poorer precision for some analytes.
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I will always remember 2014 as the year that Ebola virus took over west Africa and thus, much of my time and life. The epicenters of the outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone are areas that I have worked in since 1996 on projects to build capacity to combat another viral hemorrhagic disease, Lassa fever, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Tulane University, and others. I spent a lot time and made many friends and colleagues in the Forest Region of Guinea and the Kenema District of Sierra Leone, both at the heart of this Ebola outbreak. I have also responded to quite a few Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks over the years. Therefore, it was natural that, when Ebola hit west Africa, I would get involved. Indeed, since April of 2014, it has pretty much been all Ebola all of the time, with me cycling constantly between my home in Lima, Peru and west Africa, Geneva, and Washington, consulting primarily with the WHO and the US Government. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
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Background: Limited clinical and laboratory data are available on patients with Ebola virus disease (EVD). The Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, which had an existing infrastructure for research regarding viral hemorrhagic fever, has received and cared for patients with EVD since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone in May 2014. Methods: We reviewed available epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory records of patients in whom EVD was diagnosed between May 25 and June 18, 2014. We used quantitative reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction assays to assess the load of Ebola virus (EBOV, Zaire species) in a subgroup of patients. Results: Of 106 patients in whom EVD was diagnosed, 87 had a known outcome, and 44 had detailed clinical information available. The incubation period was estimated to be 6 to 12 days, and the case fatality rate was 74%. Common findings at presentation included fever (in 89% of the patients), headache (in 80%), weakness (in 66%), dizziness (in 60%), diarrhea (in 51%), abdominal pain (in 40%), and vomiting (in 34%). Clinical and laboratory factors at presentation that were associated with a fatal outcome included fever, weakness, dizziness, diarrhea, and elevated levels of blood urea nitrogen, aspartate aminotransferase, and creatinine. Exploratory analyses indicated that patients under the age of 21 years had a lower case fatality rate than those over the age of 45 years (57% vs. 94%, P=0.03), and patients presenting with fewer than 100,000 EBOV copies per milliliter had a lower case fatality rate than those with 10 million EBOV copies per milliliter or more (33% vs. 94%, P=0.003). Bleeding occurred in only 1 patient. Conclusions: The incubation period and case fatality rate among patients with EVD in Sierra Leone are similar to those observed elsewhere in the 2014 outbreak and in previous outbreaks. Although bleeding was an infrequent finding, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal manifestations were common. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.).
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The Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa is a daily staple of the lay press and of scholarly medical publications. Ebola evokes fear among both the public and clinicians. It also evokes a sort of therapeutic nihilism - after all, if there is no treatment, what can be done? And without an Ebola-specific antiviral medication, of what use are infectious-disease clinicians? Without oxygen, let alone mechanical ventilators, how can acute and critical care clinicians possibly contribute? We have traveled several times to West Africa and done primary patient care in treatment centers and hospitals in Guinea (Conakry and Guéckédou), . . .
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Objectives: Adequate pathology services are a prerequisite to accurate cancer diagnoses and tailoring appropriate treatment. Limitations in skilled personnel and infrastructure are among the challenges faced by developing countries. We describe a stepwise implementation of anatomic pathology laboratory services at Butaro District Hospital, designated as a Cancer Center of Excellence in rural Rwanda. Methods: The phased approach to developing pathology services up to December 2012 is described. A retrospective review of specimens submitted to Butaro District Hospital between July 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012, was conducted. Patient clinical characteristics and sociodemographics are also described. Results: During the study period, a total of 437 tissue specimens were submitted. Among these, 143 (32.7%) were from male patients, 244 (55.8%) were confirmed as malignant, 163 (37.3%) were benign, 28 (6.4%) were inconclusive, and two (0.5%) results were not available at the time of analysis. The median time from specimen receipt at Butaro to final reporting was 32 days (range, 7-193 days; interquartile range, 23-44 days). Conclusions: Our experience demonstrates that anatomic pathology services can be established in resource-limited settings and local capacity can be built to support accurate diagnoses. Our approach included leveraging partnerships, volunteer experts, and task shifting and will be expanded to include telepathology.
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In March 2014, the World Health Organization was notified of an outbreak of a communicable disease characterized by fever, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and a high fatality rate in Guinea. Virologic investigation identified Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) as the causative agent. Full-length genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed that EBOV from Guinea forms a separate clade in relationship to the known EBOV strains from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. Epidemiologic investigation linked the laboratory-confirmed cases with the presumed first fatality of the outbreak in December 2013. This study demonstrates the emergence of a new EBOV strain in Guinea.
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Although malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) are simple to perform, they remain subject to errors, mainly related to the post-analytical phase. We organized the first large scale SMS based external quality assessment (EQA) on correct reading and interpretation of photographs of a three-band malaria RDT among laboratory health workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). High resolution EQA photographs of 10 RDT results together with a questionnaire were distributed to health facilities in 9 out of 11 provinces in DR Congo. Each laboratory health worker answered the EQA by Short Message Service (SMS). Filled-in questionnaires from each health facility were sent back to Kinshasa. A total of 1849 laboratory health workers in 1014 health facilities participated. Most frequent errors in RDT reading were i) failure to recognize invalid (13.2-32.5% ) or negative test results (9.8-12.8%), (ii) overlooking faint test lines (4.1-31.2%) and (iii) incorrect identification of the malaria species (12.1-17.4%). No uniform strategy for diagnosis of malaria at the health facility was present. Stock outs of RDTs occurred frequently. Half of the health facilities had not received an RDT training. Only two thirds used the RDT recommended by the National Malaria Control Program. Performance of RDT reading was positively associated with training and the technical level of health facility. Facilities with RDT positivity rates >50% and located in Eastern DR Congo performed worse. Our study confirmed that errors in reading and interpretation of malaria RDTs are widespread and highlighted the problem of stock outs of RDTs. Adequate training of end-users in the application of malaria RDTs associated with regular EQAs is recommended.
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Background. In Haiti, breast cancer patients present at such advanced stages that even modern therapies offer modest survival benefit. Identifying the personal, sociocultural, and economic barriers-to-care delaying patient presentation is crucial to controlling disease. Methods. Patients presenting to the Hôpital Bon Sauveur in Cange were prospectively accrued. Delay was defined as 12 weeks or longer from initial sign/symptom discovery to presentation, as durations greater than this cutoff correlate with reduced survival. A matched case-control analysis with multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors predicting delay. Results. Of N = 123 patients accrued, 90 (73%) reported symptom-presentation duration and formed the basis of this study: 52 patients presented within 12 weeks of symptoms, while 38 patients waited longer than 12 weeks. On logistic regression, lower education status (OR = 5.6, P = 0.03), failure to initially recognize mass as important (OR = 13.0, P < 0.01), and fear of treatment cost (OR = 8.3, P = 0.03) were shown to independently predict delayed patient presentation. Conclusion. To reduce stage at presentation, future interventions must educate patients on the recognition of initial breast cancer signs and symptoms and address cost concerns by providing care free of charge and/or advertising that existing care is already free.
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With an estimated 9.4 million new cases globally, tuberculosis (TB) continues to be a major public health concern. Eighty percent of all cases worldwide occur in 22 high-burden, mainly resource-poor settings. This devastating impact of tuberculosis on vulnerable populations is also driven by its deadly synergy with HIV. Therefore, building capacity and enhancing universal access to rapid and accurate laboratory diagnostics are necessary to control TB and HIV-TB coinfections in resource-limited countries. The present review describes several new and established methods as well as the issues and challenges associated with implementing quality tuberculosis laboratory services in such countries. Recently, the WHO has endorsed some of these novel methods, and they have been made available at discounted prices for procurement by the public health sector of high-burden countries. In addition, international and national laboratory partners and donors are currently evaluating other new diagnostics that will allow further and more rapid testing in point-of-care settings. While some techniques are simple, others have complex requirements, and therefore, it is important to carefully determine how to link these new tests and incorporate them within a country's national diagnostic algorithm. Finally, the successful implementation of these methods is dependent on key partnerships in the international laboratory community and ensuring that adequate quality assurance programs are inherent in each country's laboratory network.
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The $63 billion comprehensive global health initiative (GHI) emphasizes health systems strengthening (HSS) to tackle challenges, including child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases. GHI and other initiatives are critical to fighting emerging and reemerging diseases in resource-poor countries. HSS is also an increasing focus of the $49 billion program of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Laboratory systems and services are often neglected in resource-poor settings, but the funding offers an opportunity to end the neglect. To sustainably strengthen national laboratory systems in resource-poor countries, the following approaches are needed: (1) developing integrative national laboratory strategic plans and policies and building systems to address multiple diseases; (2) establishing public-private partnerships; (3) ensuring effective leadership, commitment, and coordination by host governments of efforts of donors and partners; (4) establishing and/or strengthening centers of excellence and field epidemiology and laboratory training programs to meet short- and medium-term training and retention goals; and (5) establishing affordable, scalable, and effective laboratory accreditation schemes to ensure quality of laboratory tests and bridge the gap between clinicians and laboratory experts on the use of test results.
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Derryck Klarkowski and Daniel Orozco describe the Médecins Sans Frontières program for monitoring the quality of microscopy for malaria, pulmonary tuberculosis, and leishmaniasis.
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An unprecedented influx of funds and support through large programs such as the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and the World Health Organization's and President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made it possible for more than 1 million persons in resource-limited settings to access AIDS treatment and several million more to be in care and prevention programs. Nevertheless, there remain major challenges that prevent AIDS drugs and care from reaching many more in need, especially in rural settings. The roll-out of a high-quality treatment, care, and prevention program depends on an effective and reliable laboratory infrastructure. This article presents a strategy used by the Institute of Human Virology (IHV)-University of Maryland and its affiliate IHV-Nigeria to establish a multifaceted, integrated tier laboratory program to support a PEPFAR-funded scale-up of its AIDS Care Treatment in Nigeria program, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Nigerian government, as a possible model for overcoming a key challenge that faces several resource-limited countries trying to roll out and scale-up their HIV/AIDS treatment, care, and prevention program.
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Three decades ago, the world's ministries of health declared primary health care--the delivery of basic preventive and curative services--a top priority. Since then, however, the world's poorest countries have not met most primary health care goals. Twenty-six years after the Declaration of Alma Ata, we are said to be living in a time of "limited resources," a phrase that construes various health interventions as competing priorities. As HIV has become the leading infectious cause of adult death in much of the world, it is difficult to argue that AIDS prevention and care are not ranking priorities for primary health care, yet precisely such arguments have held sway among international health policy makers. We present new information emerging from the scale-up of an established and integrated AIDS prevention-and-care program, based initially in a squatter settlement in central Haiti, to a second site in rural Haiti. The program includes robust prevention efforts as well as community-based therapy for advanced AIDS; three related components--women's health and active case finding and therapy for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections--were central to this effort. We tracked changes in key indices over the 14 months following the introduction of these services to a public clinic in central Haiti. We found that integrated AIDS prevention and care, including the use of antiretroviral agents, to be feasible in resource-poor settings and that such efforts may have favorable and readily measured impact on a number of primary health care goals, including vaccination, family planning, tuberculosis case finding and cure, and health promotion. Other collateral benefits, though less readily measured, include improved staff morale and enhanced confidence in public health and medicine. We conclude that improving AIDS prevention and treatment can help to reinvigorate flagging efforts to promote universal primary health care.
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Providing health care in sub-Saharan Africa is a complex problem. Recent reports call for more resources to assist in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases that affect this population, but policy makers, clinicians, and the public frequently fail to understand that diagnosis is essential to the prevention and treatment of disease. Access to reliable diagnostic testing is severely limited in this region, and misdiagnosis commonly occurs. Understandably, allocation of resources to diagnostic laboratory testing has not been a priority for resource-limited health care systems, but unreliable and inaccurate laboratory diagnostic testing leads to unnecessary expenditures in a region already plagued by resource shortages, promotes the perception that laboratory testing is unhelpful, and compromises patient care. We explore the barriers to implementing consistent testing within this region and illustrate the need for a more comprehensive approach to the diagnosis of infectious diseases, with an emphasis on making laboratory testing a higher priority.
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We assessed end-user practice for numerous procedural steps of two types of RDTs: Core Malaria Pf (the cassette format) and OptiMAL IT (the dipstick format). Two types of errors occurred: generic errors common to both types of test and specific errors caused by the test design and manufacturer's instructions. End-user errors were more frequent with OptiMAL IT than Core Pf tests. To improve malaria diagnosis with rapid tests, users require training and better manufacturer's instructions that take into account local conditions.
Article
Laboratories and laboratory networks are a fundamental component of tuberculosis (TB) control, providing testing for diagnosis, surveillance and treatment monitoring at every level of the health-care system. New initiatives and resources to strengthen laboratory capacity and implement rapid and new diagnostic tests for TB will require recognition that laboratories are systems that require quality standards, appropriate human resources, and attention to safety in addition to supplies and equipment. To prepare the laboratory networks for new diagnostics and expanded capacity, we need to focus efforts on strengthening quality management systems (QMS) through additional resources for external quality assessment programmes for microscopy, culture, drug susceptibility testing (DST) and molecular diagnostics. QMS should also promote development of accreditation programmes to ensure adherence to standards to improve both the quality and credibility of the laboratory system within TB programmes. Corresponding attention must be given to addressing human resources at every level of the laboratory, with special consideration being given to new programmes for laboratory management and leadership skills. Strengthening laboratory networks will also involve setting up partnerships between TB programmes and those seeking to control other diseases in order to pool resources and to promote advocacy for quality standards, to develop strategies to integrate laboratories’ functions and to extend control programme activities to the private sector. Improving the laboratory system will assure that increased resources, in the form of supplies, equipment and facilities, will be invested in networks that are capable of providing effective testing to meet the goals of the Global Plan to Stop TB.
Article
Background: Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) has developed an advanced clinical and laboratory research capacity to manage the threat of Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). The 2013-2016 Ebola virus (EBOV) disease (EVD) outbreak is the first to have occurred in an area close to a facility with established clinical and laboratory capacity for study of VHFs. Methods: Because of its proximity to the epicenter of the EVD outbreak, which began in Guinea in March 2014, the KGH Lassa fever Team mobilized to establish EBOV surveillance and diagnostic capabilities. Results: Augustine Goba, director of the KGH Lassa laboratory, diagnosed the first documented case of EVD in Sierra Leone, on 25 May 2014. Thereafter, KGH received and cared for numbers of patients with EVD that quickly overwhelmed the capacity for safe management. Numerous healthcare workers contracted and lost their lives to EVD. The vast majority of subsequent EVD cases in West Africa can be traced back to a single transmission chain that includes this first diagnosed case. Conclusions: Responding to the challenges of confronting 2 hemorrhagic fever viruses will require continued investments in the development of countermeasures (vaccines, therapeutic agents, and diagnostic assays), infrastructure, and human resources.
Article
Background. Nonstandardized specimen-transport logistics, lack of laboratory personnel to transport specimens, lack of standard specimen containers, and long turnaround time (TAT) hindered access to quality laboratory services. The objective of the Becton, Dickinson, and Company (BD)–US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was to support country-specific programs to develop integrated laboratory systems, services, and quality improvement strategies, with an emphasis on strengthening the specimen-referral system (SRS). Methods. In 2007, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) joined with the BD-PEPFAR PPP to strengthen laboratory systems. A joint planning and assessment committee identified gaps in the SRS for prioritization and intervention and piloted the system in Addis Ababa and Amhara Region. Results. The PPP established standardized, streamlined specimen logistics, using the Ethiopian Postal Service Enterprise to support a laboratory network in which 554 facilities referred specimens to 160 laboratories. The PPP supported procuring 400 standard specimen containers and the training of 586 laboratory personnel and 81 postal workers. The average TAT was reduced from 7 days (range, 2–14 days) to 2 days (range, 1–3 days) in Addis Ababa and from 10 days (range, 6–21 days) to 5 days (range, 2–6 days) in Amhara Region. Conclusions. This study highlights the feasibility and untapped potential of PPPs to strengthen laboratory systems. This planned and structured approach to improving specimen referral enhanced access to quality laboratory services.
Article
Background Available data on the characteristics of patients with Ebola virus disease (EVD) and clinical management of EVD in settings outside West Africa, as well as the complications observed in those patients, are limited. Methods We reviewed available clinical, laboratory, and virologic data from all patients with laboratory-confirmed Ebola virus infection who received care in U.S. and European hospitals from August 2014 through December 2015. Results A total of 27 patients (median age, 36 years [range, 25 to 75]) with EVD received care; 19 patients (70%) were male, 9 of 26 patients (35%) had coexisting conditions, and 22 (81%) were health care personnel. Of the 27 patients, 24 (89%) were medically evacuated from West Africa or were exposed to and infected with Ebola virus in West Africa and had onset of illness and laboratory confirmation of Ebola virus infection in Europe or the United States, and 3 (11%) acquired EVD in the United States or Europe. At the onset of illness, the most common signs and symptoms were fatigue (20 patients [80%]) and fever or feverishness (17 patients [68%]). During the clinical course, the predominant findings included diarrhea, hypoalbuminemia, hyponatremia, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia, and hypomagnesemia; 14 patients (52%) had hypoxemia, and 9 (33%) had oliguria, of whom 5 had anuria. Aminotransferase levels peaked at a median of 9 days after the onset of illness. Nearly all the patients received intravenous fluids and electrolyte supplementation; 9 (33%) received noninvasive or invasive mechanical ventilation; 5 (19%) received continuous renal-replacement therapy; 22 (81%) received empirical antibiotics; and 23 (85%) received investigational therapies (19 [70%] received at least two experimental interventions). Ebola viral RNA levels in blood peaked at a median of 7 days after the onset of illness, and the median time from the onset of symptoms to clearance of viremia was 17.5 days. A total of 5 patients died, including 3 who had respiratory and renal failure, for a mortality of 18.5%. Conclusions Among the patients with EVD who were cared for in the United States or Europe, close monitoring and aggressive supportive care that included intravenous fluid hydration, correction of electrolyte abnormalities, nutritional support, and critical care management for respiratory and renal failure were needed; 81.5% of these patients who received this care survived.
Article
At the turn of the century, some claimed that HIV/AIDS was a disease that could not be managed in low-income settings. It was argued that "poor people would not comply with treatment," and that treatment was too expensive and too complicated to deliver. But over the past two decades, data on outcomes have thoroughly disproved this myth. Similar arguments have more recently been made about cancer treatment: chemotherapy was said to be too toxic and too costly and that it required administration expertise beyond that available in low-income settings. We argue that these claims are similarly rooted in ideology rather than evidence. Fortunately, such claims are starting to be refuted by a diverse set of global cancer partnerships around the world that are documenting progress and positive results. In this review article, we provide examples of programs that can give us reason to hope that the treatment playing field is being leveled such that birthplace does not determine survival prognosis. We believe that through strong collaborative efforts and solidarity, the equity of chance can be achieved for patients with cancer worldwide.
Article
Background: Novel diagnostics have been widely applied across human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis prevention and treatment programs. To achieve the greatest impact, HIV and tuberculosis diagnostic programs must carefully plan and implement within the context of a specific healthcare system and the laboratory capacity. Methods: A workshop was convened in Cape Town in September 2014. Participants included experts from laboratory and clinical practices, officials from ministries of health, and representatives from industry. Results: The article summarizes best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from implementation experiences across sub-Saharan Africa for (1) building laboratory programs within the context of a healthcare system; (2) utilizing experience of clinicians and healthcare partners in planning and implementing the right diagnostic; and (3) evaluating the effects of new diagnostics on the healthcare system and on patient health outcomes. Conclusions: The successful implementation of HIV and tuberculosis diagnostics in resource-limited settings relies on careful consideration of each specific context.
Article
Work that has been done in low-income countries to build health systems that can respond to AIDS and TB (as well as other acute and chronic diseases) shows that with adequate resources, we can improve care delivery, sharply reducing morbidity and mortality. More than four decades after one U.S. Surgeon General reportedly declared it time to close the book on infectious diseases, drug-resistant pathogens have diminished the effectiveness of once-potent therapies.(1) In the past three decades, newly described pathogens, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, and the H1N1 influenza virus, have caused pandemics, while old scourges from tuberculosis to cholera have persisted or resurged. Simultaneously, rising life expectancy and rapid social change have led to an increasing burden of chronic diseases for which we have effective therapies but inadequate innovation for delivering them efficiently to ...
Article
The aim of diagnostic point-of-care testing is to minimise the time to obtain a test result, thereby allowing clinicians and patients to make a quick clinical decision. Because point-of-care tests are used in resource-limited settings, the benefits need to outweigh the costs. To optimise point-of-care testing in resource-limited settings, diagnostic tests need rigorous assessments focused on relevant clinical outcomes and operational costs, which differ from assessments of conventional diagnostic tests. We reviewed published studies on point-of-care testing in resource-limited settings, and found no clearly defined metric for the clinical usefulness of point-of-care testing. Therefore, we propose a framework for the assessment of point-of-care tests, and suggest and define the term test efficacy to describe the ability of a diagnostic test to support a clinical decision within its operational context. We also propose revised criteria for an ideal diagnostic point-of-care test in resource-limited settings. Through systematic assessments, comparisons between centralised testing and novel point-of-care technologies can be more formalised, and health officials can better establish which point-of-care technologies represent valuable additions to their clinical programmes.
Article
Considerable resources have been invested in recent years to improve laboratory systems in resource-limited settings. We reviewed published reports, interviewed major donor organizations, and conducted case studies of laboratory systems in 3 countries to assess how countries and donors have worked together to improve laboratory services. While infrastructure and the provision of services have seen improvement, important opportunities remain for further advancement. Implementation of national laboratory plans is inconsistent, human resources are limited, and quality laboratory services rarely extend to lower tier laboratories (eg, health clinics, district hospitals). Coordination within, between, and among governments and donor organizations is also frequently problematic. Laboratory standardization and quality control are improving but remain challenging, making accreditation a difficult goal. Host country governments and their external funding partners should coordinate their efforts effectively around a host country's own national laboratory plan to advance sustainable capacity development throughout a country's laboratory system.
Article
Medical technologists (MTs) and technicians fill key roles in blood centers and hospital transfusion services. There is a concern that the number of new technologists and technicians entering the field is insufficient to keep up with demand created by the retirement of current personnel and continuing technological innovation. The American Society for Clinical Pathology reported in March 2009 that laboratories across the United States were struggling to fill MT and medical laboratory technician (MLT) positions. A survey of "positions available" advertisements from several months of the ABC Newsletter revealed that 35% were for MTs compared with 22% for physicians and 43% for all other positions. While not a scientific study, on the surface, this would indicate that blood centers are not immune from the struggle to fill positions within their laboratories. This paper will examine current trends in the United States as it relates to staffing for these positions and conclude by proposing actions that blood centers can take to help ensure an adequate supply of qualified MTs and MLTs in the future.
Article
Pathology provides a critical bridge between the patients, their physicians and the therapeutic and surgical interventions that can be provided to them. Clinicians caring for patients in resource poor settings may provide basic healthcare, which does not include access to pathologic services; however, the value of pathology in alleviating health disparities for underserved patients is substantial when implemented. Partners in health is a comprehensive, community-based healthcare organization with clinics in 7 countries-most among the poorest in the world-which has the ability to obtain surgical biopsies and, if a pathologic diagnosis can be rendered, provide treatment, and long-term follow-up. Over the past 5 years, pathologists from the Brigham and Women's Hospital have collaborated with clinicians from partners in health to meet this need which included 129 cases from Haiti and Rwanda and a range of pathology: 64 malignancies, 28 normal tissue or nondiagnostic specimens, 16 infectious or inflammatory cases, 8 benign lesions, and other rare entities. Providing pathology services in resource poor settings through collaboration with clinicians working on-site is only hindered by the establishment of a working collaboration; however, the benefits are enormous and include patient access to curative or tailored therapies, logistical management of treatment resources, and exposure of pathologists to unique and challenging cases.
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