Publication dynamics: what can be done to eliminate barriers to publishing full manuscripts by the postgraduate trainees of a low-middle income country?

This study aimed to determine the publication rate of free paper abstracts presented by the postgraduate (PG) trainees and determine the reasons for non-publication. A mixed methods study was conducted. PG trainees presenting free papers at the at the Pakistan Society of Chemical Pathologist conferences from 2012 to 2018 were included. Three databases were searched to identify if the abstracts were published or not. The PG trainee authors of abstracts not published as full manuscript, were surveyed to determine the barriers and challenges in publishing a manuscript.

The average rate of full manuscript publication was 51.8% (n = 93/177) for the abstracts presented by the PG trainees. Publication rate was higher for oral (n = 73/119, 61.3%) compared to poster presentation (n = 20/58, 34.5%). Most of the manuscripts were published after two years of abstract presentation. The survey showed that the main challenges to publishing an abstract were lack of time, limited scientific writing or submission skills, lack of funding for publication fee, and negative or statistically non-significant results. This reflects a need to arrange workshops/symposia for the PG trainees of low-middle income country (LMIC) to enhance their writing and time management skills and improve the full manuscript publication rate from LMICs.

Compliance with the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist and related postoperative outcomes: a nationwide survey among 172 health facilities in Ethiopia

Ministry of Health (MOH) of Ethiopia adopted World Health Organization’s evidence-proven surgical safety checklist (SSC) to reduce the occurrence of surgical complications, i.e., death, disability and prolong hospitalization. MOH commissioned this evaluation to learn about SSC completeness and compliance, and its effect on magnitude of surgical complications.

Health institution-based cross-sectional study with retrospective surgical chart audit was used to evaluate SSC utilization in 172 public and private health facilities in Ethiopia, December 2020–May 2021. A total of 1720 major emergency and elective surgeries in 172 (140 public and 32 private) facilities were recruited for chart review by an experienced team of surgical clinicians. A pre-tested tool was used to abstract data from patient charts and national database. Analyzed descriptive, univariable and bivariable data using Stata version-15 statistical software.

In 172 public and private health facilities across Ethiopia, 1603 of 1720 (93.2%) patient charts were audited; representations of public and private facilities were 81.4% (n = 140) and 18.6% (n = 32), respectively. Of surgeries that utilized SSC (67.6%, 1083 of 1603), the proportion of SSC that were filled completely and correctly were 60.8% (659 of 1083). Surgeries compliant to SSC guide achieved a statistically significant reduction in perioperative mortality (P = 0.002) and anesthesia adverse events (P = 0.005), but not in Surgical Site Infection (P = 0.086). Non-compliant surgeries neither utilized SSC nor completed the SSC correctly, 58.9% (944 of 1603).

Surgeries that adhered to the SSC achieved a statistically significant reduction in perioperative complications, including mortality. Disappointingly, a significant number of surgeries (58.9%) failed to adhere to SSC, a missed opportunity for reducing complications.

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

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Coaching for impact: successful implementation of a multi-national, multi-institutional synchronous research course in Ethiopia

Under the American College of Surgeons’ Operation Giving Back, several US institutions collaborated with a teaching and regional referral hospital in Ethiopia to develop a surgical research curriculum.

A virtual, interactive, introductory research course which utilized a web-based classroom platform and live educational sessions via an online teleconferencing application was implemented. Surgical and public health faculty from the US and Ethiopia taught webinars and led breakout coaching sessions to facilitate participants’ project development. Both a pre-course needs assessment survey and a post-course participation survey were used to examine the impact of the course.

Twenty participants were invited to participate in the course. Despite the majority of participants having connection issues (88%), 11 participants completed the course with an 83% average attendance rate. Ten participants successfully developed structured research proposals based on their local clinical needs.

This novel multi-institutional and multi-national research course design was successfully implemented and could serve as a template for greater development of research capacity building in the low- and middle-income country (LMIC) setting.

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

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

The role of telepathology in diagnosis of pre-malignant and malignant cervical lesions: Implementation at a tertiary hospital in Northern Tanzania

Adequate and timely access to pathology services is a key to scale up cancer control, however, there is an extremely shortage of pathologists in Tanzania. Telepathology (scanned images microscopy) has the potential to increase access to pathology services and it is increasingly being employed for primary diagnosis and consultation services. However, the experience with the use of telepathology in Tanzania is limited. We aimed to investigate the feasibility of using scanned images for primary diagnosis of pre-malignant and malignant cervical lesions by assessing its equivalency to conventional (glass slide) microscopy in Tanzania.

In this laboratory-based study, assessment of hematoxylin and eosin stained glass slides of 175 cervical biopsies were initially performed conventionally by three pathologists independently. The slides were scanned at x 40 and one to three months later, the scanned images were reviewed by the pathologists in blinded fashion. The agreement between initial and review diagnoses across participating pathologists was described and measured using Cohen’s kappa coefficient (κ).

The overall concordance of diagnoses established on conventional microscopy compared to scanned images across three pathologists was 87.7%; κ = 0.54; CI (0.49–0.57).The overall agreement of diagnoses established by local pathologist on conventional microscopy compared to scanned images was 87.4%; κ = 0.73; CI (0.65–0.79). The concordance of diagnoses established by senior pathologist compared to local pathologist on conventional microscopy and scanned images was 96% and 97.7% respectively. The inter-observer agreement (κ) value were 0.93, CI (0.87–1.00) and 0.94, CI (0.88–1.00) for conventional microscopy and scanned images respectively.

All κ coefficients expressed good intra- and inter-observer agreement, suggesting that telepathology is sufficiently accurate for primary diagnosis in surgical pathology. The discrepancies in interpretation of pre-malignant lesions highlights the importance of p16 immunohistochemistry in definitive diagnosis in these lesions. Sustainability factors including hardware and internet connectivity are essential components to be considered before telepathology may be deemed suitable for widely use in Tanzania.

“My Body, My Rhythm, My Voice”: a community dance pilot intervention engaging breast cancer survivors in physical activity in a middle-income country

Background: Interventions to promote physical activity among women breast cancer survivors (BCS) in low to middle-income countries are limited. We assessed the acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of a theory-driven group dance intervention for BCS delivered in Bogotá, Colombia.

Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental study employing a mixed-methods approach to assess the 8-week, 3 times/week group dance intervention. The effect of the intervention on participants’ physical activity levels (measured by accelerometry), motivation to engage in physical activity, and quality of life were evaluated using Generalized Estimating Equations analysis. The qualitative method included semi-structured interviews thematically analyzed to evaluate program acceptability.

Results: Sixty-four BCS were allocated to the intervention (N=31) or the control groups (N=33). In the intervention arm, 84% attended ≥60% of sessions. We found increases on average minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day (intervention: +8.99 vs control: -3.7 min; p = 0.01), and in ratings of motivation (intervention change score= 0.45, vs. control change score= -0.05; p = 0.01). BCS reported improvements in perceived behavioral capabilities to be active, captured through the interviews.

Conclusions: The high attendance, behavioral changes, and successful delivery indicate the potential effectiveness, feasibility, and scalability of the intervention for BCS in Colombia.

Trial registration: Clinical trials NCT05252780, registered on Dec 7th, 2021 – Retrospectively registered Unique protocol ID: P20CA217199-9492018.

Impact of a Novel Social Work Program on Access to Tertiary Care

Background: In the movement for global health equity, increased research and funding have not yet addressed a shortage of evidence on effectively implementing context-specific interventions; one unmet need is facilitating access to specialty care within the public health sector in Mexico. Compañeros en Salud has been piloting a novel program, called Right to Healthcare (RTHC), to increase access to specialty care for the rural poor in Chiapas, Mexico. The RTHC program incorporates social work, patient navigation, referrals, direct economic support, and accompaniment for patients.

Objectives: This study evaluates the effectiveness of the RTHC program. Primary outcomes analyzed included acceptance of any referral and attendance of any appointment. Secondary outcomes included acceptance of the first referral and rate of appointment attendance for patients with an accepted referral.

Methods: Using referral process data for the years 2014 to 2019 from a public tertiary care hospital in Chiapas, 91 RTHC patients were matched using 2:1 optimal pair matching with a control cohort balancing covariates of patient age, sex, specialty referred to, level of referring hospital, and municipality.

Findings: RTHC patients were more likely to have had an accepted referral (OR 17.42, 95% CI 3.68 to 414.16) and to have attended an appointment (OR 5.49, 95% CI 2.93 to 11.60) compared to the matched control group. RTHC patients were also more likely to have had their first referral accepted (OR 2.78, 95% CI 1.29 to 6.73). Among patients with an accepted referral, RTHC patients were more likely to have attended an appointment (OR 3.86, 95% CI 1.90 to 8.57).

Conclusions: The results demonstrate that the RTHC model is successful in increasing access to specialty care by both increasing referral acceptance and appointment attendance.

Interventional radiology in low- and middle-income countries

With advancements in imaging techniques, interventional radiology (IR) has found an increased utility in multiple diseases such as ischemic stroke, tissue biopsies, oncology, trauma, etc. The benefit has been twofold in being minimally invasive and improved outcomes. IR in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is still in its nascent phase. The many hurdles include poorly structured post-graduate training, cost of procedures, and lack of awareness among referring physicians. There is a significant need to increase the trained specialists’ awareness among the medical community and rationalize the cost of procedures in LMICs with careful consideration, planning, and international economic and technical assistance.