Drug shortages in low- and middle-income countries: Colombia as a case study

Background
Drug shortages are a global problem. Analyzing shortages worldwide is important to identify possible relationships between drug shortages across countries, determine strategies that reduce drug shortages, and reduce the inequality in access to medicines between countries. In contrast to well-documented shortages in high-income countries, there are few studies that consider low- and middle-income economies. We evaluate drug shortages in one middle-income country, Colombia.

Methods
We collected data from INVIMA, the institution responsible for managing medicine shortage alerts in Colombia. We classified the data using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system and analyzed them using descriptive statistics. We considered a study period from 2015 to 2021 (vital medicines) and from 2010 to 2020 (non-vital medicines).

Results
In total, 173 unique ATC codes were in shortage. These included antidotes, alimentary tract and metabolism products, anesthetics, cardiac stimulants and antithrombotic agents. The major causes were manufacturing problems and few suppliers. Drug shortages substantially increased from 2020 to May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among resolved shortages, the average duration was 1.6 years with a standard deviation of 1.9 years. The longest, naloxone tablets, were in shortage for almost 10 years.

Conclusions
Drug shortages are a persistent problem in Colombia. Government institutions have made progress in implementing systems and procedures to report them. However, the approaches implemented need to be maintained and refined. This study lays the groundwork for the analysis of drug shortages in other LMICs. We highlight the necessity of addressing drug shortages in their global context and reducing the inequality in access to medicines between countries.

Perioperative provider safety in the pandemic: Development, implementation and evaluation of an adjunct COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained surgical systems worldwide and placed healthcare providers at risk in their workplace. To protect surgical care providers caring for patients with COVID-19, in May 2020 we developed a COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist (C19 SPC), including online training materials, to accompany the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist. In October 2020, an online survey was conducted via partner and social media networks to understand perioperative clinicians’ intraoperative practice and perceptions of safety while caring for COVID-19 positive patients and gain feedback on the utility of C19 SPC. Descriptive statistics were used to characterise responses by World Bank income classification. Qualitative analysis was performed to describe respondents’ perceptions of C19 SPC and recommended modifications. Respondents included 539 perioperative clinicians from 63 countries. One-third of respondents reported feeling unsafe in their workplace due to COVID-19 with significantly higher proportions in low (39.8%) and lower-middle (33.9%) than higher income countries (15.6%). The most cited concern was the risk of COVID-19 transmission to self, colleagues and family. A large proportion of respondents (65.3%) reported that they had not used C19 SPC, yet 83.8% of these respondents felt it would be useful. Of those who reported that they had used C19 SPC, 62.0% stated feeling safer in the workplace because of its use. Based on survey results, modifications were incorporated into a subsequent version. Our survey findings suggest that perioperative clinicians report feeling unsafe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, adjunct tools such as the C19 SPC can help to improve perceived safety.

Mobile-Social Learning for Continuing Professional Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Integrative Review

Background:
Access to continuing professional development (CPD) for health care workers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is severely limited. Digital technology serves as a promising platform for supporting CPD for health care workers by providing educational content virtually and enabling virtual peer-to-peer and mentor interaction for enhanced learning. Digital strategies for CPD that foster virtual interaction can increase workforce retention and bolster the health workforce in LMICs.

Objective:
The objective of this integrative review was to evaluate the evidence on which digital platforms were used to provide CPD to health care workers and clinical students in LMICs, which was complemented with virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. We phrased this intersection of virtual learning and virtual interaction as mobile-social learning.

Methods:
A comprehensive database and gray literature search was conducted to identify qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, along with empirical evidence, that used digital technology to provide CPD and virtual interaction with peers or mentors. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed. Eligible articles were written in English, conducted in an LMIC, and used a mobile device to provide CPD and facilitate virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. Titles, abstracts, and full texts were screened, followed by an assessment of the quality of evidence and an appraisal of the articles. A content analysis was then used to deductively code the data into emerging themes.

Results:
A total of 750 articles were identified, and 31 (4.1%) were included in the review. SMS text messaging and mobile instant messaging were the most common methods used to provide continuing education and virtual interaction between peers and mentors (25/31, 81%). Across the included articles, participants had high acceptability for using digital platforms for learning and interaction. Virtual peer interaction and mentorship were found to contribute to positive learning outcomes in most studies (27/31, 87%) through increased knowledge sharing, knowledge gains, improved clinical skills, and improved service delivery. Peer-to-peer and mentor interaction were found to improve social support and reduce feelings of isolation (9/31, 29%). There were several challenges in the implementation and use of digital technology for mobile-social learning, including limited access to resources (eg, internet coverage and stable electricity), flexibility in scheduling to participate in CPD, and sociobehavioral challenges among students.

Conclusions:
The summary suggests that mobile-social learning is a useful modality for curriculum dissemination and skill training and that the interface of mobile and social learning serves as a catalyst for improved learning outcomes coupled with increased social capital.

Health care seeking in modern urban LMIC settings: evidence from Lusaka, Zambia

Background
In an effort to improve population health, many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have expanded access to public primary care facilities and removed user fees for services in these facilities. However, a growing literature suggests that many patients bypass nearby primary care facilities to seek care at more distant or higher-level facilities. Patients in urban areas, a growing segment of the population in LMICs, generally have more options for where to seek care than patients in rural areas. However, evidence on care-seeking trajectories and bypassing patterns in urban areas remains relatively scarce.

Methods
We obtained a complete list of public health facilities and interviewed randomly selected informal sector households across 31 urban areas in Lusaka District, Zambia. All households and facilities listed were geocoded, and care-seeking trajectories mapped across the entire urban area. We analyzed three types of bypassing: i) not using health centers or health posts for primary care; ii) seeking care outside of the residential neighborhood; iii) directly seeking care at teaching hospitals.

Results
A total of 620 households were interviewed, linked to 88 health facilities. Among 571 adults who had recently sought non-emergency care, 65% sought care at a hospital. Among 141 children who recently sought care for diarrhea, cough, fever, or fast breathing, 34% sought care at a hospital. 71% of adults bypassed primary care facilities, 26% bypassed health centers and hospitals close to them for more distant facilities, and 8% directly sought care at a teaching hospital. Bypassing was also observed for 59% of children, who were more likely to seek care outside of the formal care sector, with 21% of children treated at drug shops or pharmacies.

Conclusions
The results presented here strongly highlight the complexity of urban health systems. Most adult patients in Lusaka do not use public primary health facilities for non-emergency care, and heavily rely on pharmacies and drug shops for treatment of children. Major efforts will likely be needed if the government wants to instate health centers as the principal primary care access point in this setting.

How much do government and households spend on an episode of hospitalisation in India? A comparison for public and private hospitals in Chhattisgarh state

Background
Improvements in the financing of healthcare services are important for developing countries like India to make progress towards universal health coverage. Inpatient-care contributes to a big share of total health expenditure in India. India has a mixed health-system with a sizeable presence of private hospitals. Existing studies show that out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE) incurred per hospitalisation in private hospitals was greater than public facilities. But, such comparisons have not taken into account the healthcare spending by government.

Methods
For a valid comparison between public and for-profit private providers, this study in Indian state of Chhattisgarh assessed the combined spending by government and households per episode of hospitalisation. The supply-side and demand-side spending from public and private sources was taken into account. The study used two datasets: a) household survey for data on hospital utilisation, OOPE, cash incentives received by patients and claims raised under publicly funded health insurance (PFHI) schemes (n = 903 hospitalisation episodes) b) survey of public facilities to find supply-side government spending per hospitalisation (n = 64 facilities).

Results
Taking into account all relevant demand and supply side expenditures, the average total spending per day of hospitalisation was INR 2833 for public hospitals and INR 6788 for private hospitals. Adjusted model for logarithmic transformation of OOPE while controlling for variables including case-mix showed that a hospitalisation in private hospitals was significantly more expensive than public hospitals (coefficient = 2.9, p < 0.001). Hospitalisations in private hospitals were more likely to result in a PFHI claim (adjusted-odds-ratio = 1.45, p = 0.02) and involve a greater amount than public hospitals (coefficient = 0.27, p < 0.001). Propensity-score matching models confirmed the above results.

Overall, supply-side public spending contributed to 16% of total spending, demand-side spending through PFHI to 16%, cash incentives to 1% and OOPE to 67%. OOPE constituted 31% of total spending per episode in public and 86% in private hospitals.

Conclusions
Government and households put together spent substantially more per hospitalisation in private hospitals than public hospitals in Chhattisgarh. This has important implications for the allocative efficiency and the desired public-private provider-mix. Using public resources for purchasing inpatient care services from private providers may not be a suitable strategy for such contexts.

User Perceptions and Use of an Enhanced Electronic Health Record in Rwanda With and Without Clinical Alerts: Cross-sectional Survey

Background:
Electronic health records (EHRs) have been implemented in many low-resource settings but lack strong evidence for usability, use, user confidence, scalability, and sustainability.

Objective:
This study aimed to evaluate staff use and perceptions of an EHR widely used for HIV care in >300 health facilities in Rwanda, providing evidence on factors influencing current performance, scalability, and sustainability.

Methods:
A randomized, cross-sectional, structured interview survey of health center staff was designed to assess functionality, use, and attitudes toward the EHR and clinical alerts. This study used the associated randomized clinical trial study sample (56/112, 50% sites received an enhanced EHR), pulling 27 (50%) sites from each group. Free-text comments were analyzed thematically using inductive coding.

Results:
Of the 100 participants, 90 (90% response rate) were interviewed at 54 health centers: 44 (49%) participants were clinical and 46 (51%) were technical. The EHR top uses were to access client data easily or quickly (62/90, 69%), update patient records (56/89, 63%), create new patient records (49/88, 56%), generate various reports (38/85, 45%), and review previous records (43/89, 48%). In addition, >90% (81/90) of respondents agreed that the EHR made it easier to make informed decisions, was worth using, and has improved patient information quality. Regarding availability, (66/88) 75% said they could always or almost always count on the EHR being available, whereas (6/88) 7% said never/almost never. In intervention sites, staff were significantly more likely to update existing records (P=.04), generate summaries before (P<.001) or during visits (P=.01), and agree that “the EHR provides useful alerts, and reminders” (P<.01).

Conclusions:
Most users perceived the EHR as well accepted, appropriate, and effective for use in low-resource settings despite infrastructure limitation in 25% (22/88) of the sites. The implementation of EHR enhancements can improve the perceived usefulness and use of key functions. Successful scale-up and use of EHRs in small health facilities could improve clinical documentation, care, reporting, and disease surveillance in low- and middle-income countries.

Implementing the WHO Labour Care Guide to reduce the use of Caesarean section in four hospitals in India: protocol and statistical analysis plan for a pragmatic, stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized pilot trial

BACKGROUND
The World Health Organization (WHO) Labour Care Guide (LCG) is a paper-based labour monitoring tool designed to facilitate the implementation of WHO’s latest guidelines for effective, respectful care during labour and childbirth. Implementing the LCG into routine intrapartum care requires a strategy that improves healthcare provider practices during labour and childbirth. Such a strategy might optimize the use of Caesarean section (CS), along with potential benefits on the use of other obstetric interventions, maternal and perinatal health outcomes, and women’s experience of care. However, the effects of a strategy to implement the LCG have not been evaluated in a randomised trial. This study aims to: 1) develop and optimise a strategy for implementing the LCG (formative phase); and 2) To evaluate the implementation of the LCG strategy compared with usual care (trial phase).

METHODS
In the formative phase, we will co-design the LCG strategy with key stakeholders informed by facility assessments and provider surveys, which will be field tested in one hospital. The LCG strategy includes a LCG training program, ongoing supportive supervision from senior clinical staff, and audit and feedback using the Robson Classification. We will then conduct a stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized pilot trial in four public hospitals in India, to evaluate the effect of the LCG strategy intervention compared to usual care (simplified WHO partograph). The primary outcome is the CS rate in nulliparous women with singleton, term, cephalic pregnancies in spontaneous labour (Robson Group 1). Secondary outcomes include clinical and process of care outcomes, as well as women’s experience of care outcomes. We will also conduct a process evaluation during the trial, using standardized facility assessments, in-depth interviews and surveys with providers, audits of completed LCGs, labour ward observations and document reviews. An economic evaluation will consider implementation costs and cost-effectiveness.

DISCUSSION
Findings of this trial will guide clinicians, administrators and policymakers on how to effectively implement the LCG, and what (if any) effects the LCG strategy has on process of care, health and experience outcomes. The trial findings will inform the rollout of LCG internationally.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:
CTRI/2021/01/030695 (Protocol version 1.4, 25 April 2022)

Access to primary and secondary health care services for people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lebanon: a qualitative study

Background
People living with chronic conditions and physical disabilities face many challenges accessing healthcare services. In Lebanon, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant economic crisis further exacerbated the living conditions of this segment of the population. This study explored the barriers to accessing healthcare services among people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation during the pandemic.

Methods
We conducted semi-structured, in-depth phone interviews with users of the Physical Rehabilitation Program, offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross. We used a purposive sampling technique to achieve maximum variation. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, translated, and analyzed using thematic analysis following the “codebook” approach. Transcripts were coded and grouped in a matrix that allowed the development of themes and sub-themes inductively and deductively generated.

Results
Eight participants (7 males, 1 female) agreed to be interviewed and participated in the study between March and April, 2021. Barriers to healthcare services access were grouped according to five emerging themes: (1) economic barriers, included increasing costs of food, health services and medications, transportation, shortage of medications, and limited income; (2) structural barriers: availability of transportation, physical environment, and service quality and availability; (3) cultural barriers: marginalization due to their physical disabilities; favoritism in service provision; (4) personal barriers: lack of psychosocial support and limited knowledge about services; (5) COVID-19 barriers: fear of getting sick when visiting healthcare facilities, and heightened social isolation due to lockdowns and physical distancing.

Conclusion
The underlying economic crisis has worsened the conditions of people living with diabetes and lower-limb amputation. The pandemic has made these individuals more vulnerable to external and contextual factors that cannot be addressed only at an individual level. In the absence of a protective legal framework to mitigate inequalities, we provide recommendations for governments and nongovernmental institutions to develop solutions for more equitable access to healthcare for this segment of the population.

Essential Emergency and Critical Care as a health system response to critical illness and the COVID19 pandemic: What does it cost?

Essential Emergency and Critical Care (EECC) is a novel approach to the care of critically ill patients, focusing on first-tier, low-cost care and designed to be feasible even in low-resourced and low-staffed settings. This is distinct from advanced critical care, usually conducted in ICUs with specialised staff, facilities and technologies. This paper estimates the incremental cost of EECC and advanced critical care for the planning of care for critically ill patients in low resource settings with Kenya and Tanzania as case studies.

The incremental costing took a health systems perspective. A normative approach based on the ingredients defined through the recently published global consensus on EECC was used. The setting was a district hospital in which the patient is provided with the definitive care typically provided at that level for their condition. Quantification of resource use was based on COVID-19 as a tracer condition using clinical expertise. Local prices were used where available, and all costs were converted to USD2020.

The costs per patient day of EECC is estimated to be 1.01 USD, 10.83 USD and 32.84 USD in Tanzania and 1.76 USD, 14.86 USD and 37.43 USD in Kenya, for moderate, severe and critical COVID-19 patients respectively. The cost per patient day of advanced critical care is estimated to be 13.11 USD and 17.33 USD for severe and 297.30 USD and 369.64 USD for critical COVID-19 patients in Tanzania and Kenya, respectively.

EECC, an approach of providing the essential care to all critically ill patients, is low-cost. The components of EECC are basic and universal and, when assessed against the existing gaps in critical care coverage and costs of advanced critical care, suggest that it should be a priority area of investment for health systems around the globe.

On prioritising global health’s triple crisis of sepsis, COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance: a mixed-methods study from Malawi

Sepsis causes 20% of global deaths, particularly among children and vulnerable populations living in developing countries. This study investigated how sepsis is prioritised in Malawi’s health system to inform health policy. In this mixed-methods study, twenty multisectoral stakeholders were qualitatively interviewed and asked to quantitatively rate the likelihood of sepsis-related medium-term policy outcomes being realised. Respondents indicated that sepsis is not prioritised in Malawi due to a lack of local sepsis-related evidence and policies. However, they highlighted strong linkages between sepsis and maternal health, antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19, which are already existing national priorities, and offers opportunities for sepsis researchers as policy entrepreneurs. To address the burden of sepsis, we recommend that funding should be channelled to the generation of local evidence, evidence uptake, procurement of resources and treatment of sepsis cases, development of appropriate indicators for sepsis, adherence to infection prevention and control measures, and antimicrobial stewardship.