Evaluation of a digital triage platform in Uganda: A quality improvement initiative to reduce the time to antibiotic administration

Background
Sepsis is the leading cause of death in children under five in low- and middle-income countries. The rapid identification of the sickest children and timely antibiotic administration may improve outcomes. We developed and implemented a digital triage platform to rapidly identify critically ill children to facilitate timely intravenous antibiotic administration.

Objective
This quality improvement initiative sought to reduce the time to antibiotic administration at a dedicated children’s hospital outpatient department in Mbarara, Uganda.

Intervention and study design
The digital platform consisted of a mobile application that collects clinical signs, symptoms, and vital signs to prioritize children through a combination of emergency triggers and predictive risk algorithms. A computer-based dashboard enabled the prioritization of children by displaying an overview of all children and their triage categories. We evaluated the impact of the digital triage platform over an 11-week pre-implementation phase and an 11-week post-implementation phase. The time from the end of triage to antibiotic administration was compared to evaluate the quality improvement initiative.

Results
There was a difference of -11 minutes (95% CI, -16.0 to -6.0; p < 0.001; Mann-Whitney U test) in time to antibiotics, from 51 minutes (IQR, 27.0–94.0) pre-implementation to 44 minutes (IQR, 19.0–74.0) post-implementation. Children prioritized as emergency received the greatest time benefit (-34 minutes; 95% CI, -9.0 to -58.0; p < 0.001; Mann-Whitney U test). The proportion of children who waited more than an hour until antibiotics decreased by 21.4% (p = 0.007). Conclusion A data-driven patient prioritization and continuous feedback for healthcare workers enabled by a digital triage platform led to expedited antibiotic therapy for critically ill children with sepsis. This platform may have a more significant impact in facilities without existing triage processes and prioritization of treatments, as is commonly encountered in low resource settings.

Identifying Breast Cancer Care Quality Measures for a Cancer Facility in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Results of a Systematic Literature Review and Modified Delphi Process

PURPOSE
The burden of cancer is growing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including sub-Saharan Africa. Ensuring the delivery of high-quality cancer care in such regions is a pressing concern. There is a need for strategies to identify meaningful and relevant quality measures that are applicable to and usable for quality measurement and improvement in resource-constrained settings.

METHODS
To identify quality measures for breast cancer care at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE) in Rwanda, we used a modified Delphi process engaging two panels of experts, one with expertise in breast cancer evidence and measures used in high-income countries and one with expertise in cancer care delivery in Rwanda.

RESULTS
Our systematic review of the literature yielded no publications describing breast cancer quality measures developed in a low-income country, but it did provide 40 quality measures, which we adapted for relevance to our setting. After two surveys, one conference call, and one in-person meeting, 17 measures were identified as relevant to pathology, staging and treatment planning, surgery, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, palliative care, and retention in care. Successes of the process included participation by a diverse set of global experts and engagement of the BCCOE community in quality measurement and improvement. Anticipated challenges include the need to continually refine these measures as resources, protocols, and measurement capacity rapidly evolve in Rwanda.

CONCLUSION
A modified Delphi process engaging both global and local expertise was a promising strategy to identify quality measures for breast cancer in Rwanda. The process and resulting measures may also be relevant for other LMIC cancer facilities. Next steps include validation of these measures in a retrospective cohort of patients with breast cancer.

Surgical referrals in Northern Tanzania: a prospective assessment of rates, preventability, reasons and patterns

Background
An effective referral system is essential for a high-quality health system that provides safe surgical care while optimizing patient outcomes and ensuring efficiency. The role of referral systems in countries with under-resourced health systems is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine the rates, preventability, reasons and patterns of outward referrals of surgical patients across three levels of the healthcare system in Northern Tanzania.

Methods
Referrals from surgical and obstetric wards were assessed at 20 health facilities in five rural regions prospectively over 3 months. Trained physician data collectors used data collection forms to capture referral details daily from hospital referral letters and through discussions with clinicians and nurses. Referrals were deemed preventable if the presenting condition was one that should be managed at the referring facility level per the national surgical, obstetric and anaesthesia plan but was referred.

Results
Seven hundred forty-three total outward referrals were recorded during the study period. The referral rate was highest at regional hospitals (2.9%), followed by district hospitals (1.9%) and health centers (1.5%). About 35% of all referrals were preventable, with the highest rate from regional hospitals (70%). The most common reasons for referrals were staff-related (76%), followed by equipment (55%) and drugs or supplies (21%). Patient preference accounted for 1% of referrals. Three quarters of referrals (77%) were to the zonal hospital, followed by the regional hospitals (17%) and district hospitals (12%). The most common reason for referral to zonal (84%) and regional level (66%) hospitals was need for specialist care while the most common reason for referral to district level hospitals was non-functional imaging diagnostic equipment (28%).

Conclusions
Improving the referral system in Tanzania, in order to improve quality and efficiency of patient care, will require significant investments in human resources and equipment to meet the recommended standards at each level of care. Specifically, improving access to specialists at regional referral and district hospitals is likely to reduce the number of preventable referrals to higher level hospitals, thereby reducing overcrowding at higher-level hospitals and improving the efficiency of the health system.

One Health Approach and Antimicrobial Resistance: From Global to Ethiopian Context

Recently, antimicrobial resistance is considered as a global health crisis. Some are thought that we are now in post-antibiotic era. Despite data gaps are largest; it creates particularly significant intimidation to low- and middle-income countries. Many factors are responsible for the development of resistance to antimicrobials by microorganisms. Weak regulations and usage inaccuracies are the major causes for the occurrence of antibiotic resistance. In the last three decades, greater than thirty new infectious diseases, most originated from animals, have been emerged. There is also rising of antimicrobial consumption across the world. The growth
of human populations and an increase in contact with wildlife contribute to the spread of resistance and making it a global health concern. Since there are many routes by which drug metabolites and resistant microbes can disseminate among humans, animals and the environment, One Health Approach is urgently required to address antimicrobial resistance in global, national and local level, including Ethiopia. Internationally, the worst threat comes from the emergence and rapid spread of multi-drug resistant Gramnegative bacteria. Once again, an intercontinental, interdisciplinary and multiple approaches should be taken to combat this problem among worldwide nations with special emphasis in developing countries encompassing Africa and Ethiopia.

Cost-Effectiveness of Operating on Traumatic Spinal Injuries in Low-Middle Income Countries: A Preliminary Report From a Major East African Referral Center

Study Design:
Retrospective cost-effectiveness analysis.

Objectives:
While the incidence of traumatic spine injury (TSI) is high in low-middle income countries (LMICs), surgery is rarely possible due to cost-prohibitive implants. The objective of this study was to conduct a preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis of operative treatment of TSI patients in a LMIC setting.

Methods:
At a tertiary hospital in Tanzania from September 2016 to May 2019, a retrospective analysis was conducted to estimate the cost-effectiveness of operative versus nonoperative treatment of TSI. Operative treatment included decompression/stabilization. Nonoperative treatment meant 3 months of bed rest. Direct costs included imaging, operating fees, surgical implants, and length of stay. Four patient scenarios were chosen to represent the heterogeneity of spine trauma: Quadriplegic, paraplegic, neurologic improvement, and neurologically intact. Disability-adjusted-life-years (DALYs) and incremental-cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated to determine the cost per unit benefit of operative versus nonoperative treatment. Cost/DALY averted was the primary outcome (i.e., the amount of money required to avoid losing 1 year of healthy life).

Results:
A total of 270 TSI patients were included (125 operative; 145 nonoperative). Operative treatment averaged $731/patient. Nonoperative care averaged $212/patient. Comparing operative versus nonoperative treatment, the incremental cost/DALY averted for each patient outcome was: quadriplegic ($112-$158/DALY averted), paraplegic ($47-$67/DALY averted), neurologic improvement ($50-$71/DALY averted), neurologically intact ($41-$58/DALY averted). Sensitivity analysis confirmed these findings without major differences.

Conclusions:
This preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that the upfront costs of spine trauma surgery may be offset by a reduction in disability. LMIC governments should consider conducting more spine trauma cost-effectiveness analyses and including spine trauma surgery in universal health care.

Minimizing Delays in the Breast Cancer Pathway by Integrating Breast Specialty Care Services at the Primary Health Care Level in Zambia

PURPOSE
In Zambia, more than two-thirds of female patients with breast cancer present with late-stage disease, leading to high mortality rates. Most of the underlying causes are associated with delays in symptom recognition and diagnosis. By implementing breast care specialty services at the primary health care level, we hypothesized that some of the delays could be minimized.

METHODS
In March 2018, we established a breast care specialty clinic for women with symptomatic disease within 1 of the 5 district hospitals in Lusaka. The clinic offers breast self-awareness education, clinical breast examination, breast ultrasound, ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, surgery, referral for chemoradiation, follow-up care, and electronic medical records.

RESULTS
Between March 2018 and April 2019, of 1,790 symptomatic women who presented to the clinic, 176 (10%) had clinical and/or ultrasound indications for histologic evaluation. Biopsy specimens were obtained using ultrasound-guided core-needle procedures, all of which were performed on the same day as the initial visit. Of the 176 women who underwent biopsy, 112 (64%) had pathologic findings compatible with a primary breast cancer, and of these, 42 (37%) were early-stage (stage I/II) disease. Surgery for early-stage cancers was performed at the district hospital within 2 weeks of the time of definitive pathologic diagnosis. Patients with advanced disease were referred to the national cancer center for multimodality therapy, within a similar time frame.

CONCLUSION
Breast care specialty services for symptomatic women were established in a district-level hospital in a resource-constrained setting in Africa. As a result, the following time intervals were minimized: initial presentation and performance of clinical diagnostics; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and initiation of surgery; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and referral.

Trends and determinants of health facility childbirth service utilization among mothers in urban slums of Nairobi, Kenya

High maternal mortality remains a challenge for the attainment of the third Sustainable Development Goal in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, maternal mortality ratio remains high at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births. Utilization of health facility childbirth services ensures safe birth and is vital for the reduction of maternal mortality. However, this can be greatly affected by socioeconomic and geographical inequalities. In this study, we assess the trends and determinants of health facility childbirth service utilization among women giving birth in the urban slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Data were obtained from the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System (NUHDSS) comprising 19,469 births observed between 2003 and [19]. A logistic regression model, with parameter estimation using a generalized estimating equations (GEE) approach, was used to assess factors associated with health facility childbirth. About 81% of the births occurred at health facilities while 19% were occurring at home or outside a health facility. The results further indicated that, education, parity, and relationship to head of households were associated with health facility childbirth. Increasing awareness of the mothers about the benefits of health facility childbirth service utilization and the risks of home childbirth should be given extra attention by health practitioners during antenatal care visits.

Inequalities in caesarean section in Burundi: evidence from the Burundi Demographic and Health Surveys (2010–2016)

Background
Despite caesarean section (CS) being a lifesaving intervention, there is a noticeable gap in providing this service, when necessary, between different population groups within a country. In Burundi, there is little information about CS coverage inequality and the change in provision of this service over time. Using a high-quality equity analysis approach, we aimed to document both magnitude and change of inequality in CS coverage in Burundi over 7 years to investigate disparities.

Methods
For this study, data were extracted from the 2010 and 2016 Burundi Demographic and Health Surveys (BDHS) and analyzed through the recently updated Health Equity Assessment Toolkit (HEAT) of the World Health Organization. CS delivery was disaggregated by four equity stratifiers, namely education, wealth, residence and sub-national region. For each equity stratifier, relative and absolute summary measures were calculated. We built a 95% uncertainty interval around the point estimate to determine statistical significance.

Main findings
Disparity in CS was present in both survey years and increased over time. The disparity systematically favored wealthy women (SII = 10.53, 95% UI; 8.97, 12.10), women who were more educated (PAR = 8.89, 95% UI; 8.51, 9.26), women living in urban areas (D = 12.32, 95% UI; 9.00, 15.63) and some regions such as Bujumbura (PAR = 11.27, 95% UI; 10.52, 12.02).

Conclusions
Burundi had not recorded any progress in ensuring equity regarding CS coverage between 2010 and 2016. It is important to launch interventions that promote justified use of CS among all subpopulations and discourage overuse among high income, more educated women and urban dwellers.

Barriers and facilitators to implementing trauma registries in low- and middle-income countries: Qualitative experiences from Tanzania

Background
The burden of trauma in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) is disproportionately high: LMICs account for nearly 90% of the global trauma deaths. Lack of trauma data has been identified as one of the major challenges in addressing the quality of trauma care and informing injury-preventing strategies in LMICs. This study aimed to explore the barriers and facilitators of current trauma documentation practices towards the development of a national trauma registry (TR).

Methods
An exploratory qualitative study was conducted at five regional hospitals between August 2018 and December 2018. Five focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 49 participants from five regional hospitals. Participants included specialists, medical doctors, assistant medical officers, clinical officers, nurses, health clerks and information communication and technology officers. Participants came from the emergency units, surgical and orthopaedic inpatient units, and they had permanent placement to work in these units as non-rotating staff. We analysed the gathered information using a hybrid thematic analysis.

Results
Inconsistent documentation and archiving system, the disparity in knowledge and experience of trauma documentation, attitudes towards documentation and limitations of human and infrastructural resources in facilities we found as major barriers to the implementation of trauma registry. Health facilities commitment to standardising care, Ministry of Health and medicolegal data reporting requirements, and insurance reimbursements criteria of documentation were found as major facilitators to implementing trauma registry.

Conclusions
Implementation of a trauma registry in regional hospitals is impacted by multiple barriers related to providers, the volume of documentation, resource availability for care, and facility care flow processes. However, financial, legal and administrative data reporting requirements exist as important facilitators in implementing the trauma registry at these hospitals. Capitalizing in the identified facilitators and investing to address the revealed barriers through contextualized interventions in Tanzania and other LMICs is recommended by this study.

Cost-effectiveness of inhaled oxytocin for prevention of postpartum haemorrhage: a modelling study applied to two high burden settings

Background: Access to oxytocin for prevention of postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) in resource-poor settings is limited by the requirement for a consistent cold chain and for a skilled attendant to administer the injection. To overcome these barriers, heat-stable, non-injectable formulations of oxytocin are under development, including oxytocin for inhalation. This study modelled the cost-effectiveness of an inhaled oxytocin product (IHO) in Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

Methods: A decision analytic model was developed to assess the cost-effectiveness of IHO for the prevention of PPH compared to the standard of care in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. In Bangladesh, introduction of IHO was modelled in all public facilities and home deliveries with or without a skilled attendant. In Ethiopia, IHO was modelled in all public facilities and home deliveries with health extension workers. Costs (costs of introduction, PPH prevention and PPH treatment) and effects (PPH cases averted, deaths averted) were modelled over a 12-month program. Life years gained were modelled over a lifetime horizon (discounted at 3%). Cost of maintaining the cold chain or effects of compromised oxytocin quality (in the absence of a cold chain) were not modelled.

Results: In Bangladesh, IHO was estimated to avert 18,644 cases of PPH, 76 maternal deaths and 1954 maternal life years lost. This also yielded a cost-saving, with the majority of gains occurring among home deliveries where IHO would replace misoprostol. In Ethiopia, IHO averted 3111 PPH cases, 30 maternal deaths and 767 maternal life years lost. The full IHO introduction program bears an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of between 2 and 3 times the per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($1880 USD per maternal life year lost) and thus is unlikely to be considered cost-effective in Ethiopia. However, the ICER of routine IHO administration considering recurring cost alone falls under 25% of per-capita GDP ($175 USD per maternal life-year saved).

Conclusions: IHO has the potential to expand access to uterotonics and reduce PPH-associated morbidity and mortality in high burden settings. This can facilitate reduced spending on PPH management, making the product highly cost-effective in settings where coverage of institutional delivery is lagging.