eHealth for service delivery in conflict: a narrative review of the application of eHealth technologies in contemporary conflict settings

The role of eHealth in conflict settings is increasingly important to address geographic, epidemiologic and clinical disparities. This study categorizes various forms of eHealth usage in conflict and aims to identify gaps in evidence to make recommendations for further research and practice. The analysis was carried out via a narrative hermeneutic review methodology. Articles that fulfilled the following screening criteria were reviewed: (1) describing an eHealth intervention in active conflict or ongoing insurgency, (2) an eHealth intervention targeting a conflict-affected population, (3) an e-learning platform for delivery in conflict settings and (4) non-interventional descriptive reviews relating to eHealth in conflict. Of the 489 papers eligible for screening, 46 merited final inclusion. Conflict settings described include Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Chechnya, Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty-six studies described specific eHealth initiatives, while the remainder were more generic review papers exploring general principles. Analysis resulted in the elucidation of three final categories of current eHealth activity in conflict-affected settings: (1) eHealth for clinical management, (2) e-learning for healthcare in conflict and (3) eHealth for information management in conflict. Obvious disparities in the distribution of technological dividends from eHealth in conflict are demonstrated by this review. Conflict-affected populations are predominantly subject to ad hoc and voluntary initiatives delivered by diaspora and civil society organizations. While the deployment of eHealth technologies in conflict settings is increasingly normalized, there is a need for further clarification of global norms relating to practice in this context.

Fears and barriers: problems in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in Pakistan

Background
Women in Pakistan lack appropriate awareness about diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer due to a range of multifaceted barriers. There is a dearth of literature examining the socio-cultural factors that inhibit women from breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment in Punjab, Pakistan. Addressing this gap, this qualitative study sought to identify and explore the barriers that hinder women from seeking timely screening and treatment.

Methods
In this process 45 women (age = 18–50 years) with breast cancer were purposively sampled and interviewed from the Punjab Institute of Nuclear Medicine (PINUM) hospital, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Results
An inductive approach was used to analyze the data which resulted in the emergence of eight subthemes under the umbrella of three major themes that delineate individual, socio-cultural and structural barriers to seek screening and treatment of breast cancer in Punjab. Individual barriers included lack of awareness, hesitance in accepting social support, and spiritual healing. The identified socio-cultural factors included feminine sensitivity, stigmatization, and aversion to male doctors. Lack of financial resources and apathetic medical services were structural barriers that hinder screening and treatment.

Conclusions
These barriers can be addressed through raising awareness and community mobilization about breast-self exam and treatment. The healthcare system should also pay attention to socio-psychological and cultural factors impeding women’s access to available health facilities.

Ultrasound-Guided Transthoracic Mediastinal Biopsy: A Safe Technique for Tissue Diagnosis in Middle- and Low-Income Countries

Background and objectives
The high cost of video-assisted transthoracic procedures precludes their use in the diagnostics of mediastinal masses in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study aims to assess the technical success rate and diagnostic yield of ultrasound-guided transthoracic mediastinal biopsies at a tertiary care hospital.

Methods
This descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted in patients presenting with mediastinal masses referred to radiology services at Dr. Ziauddin University Hospital. Karachi, Pakistan. Ultrasonography was performed using Toshiba Xario 200 & Aplio 500 using convex and linear probes accordingly. Biopsy was performed using a combination of 18G semiautomatic trucut and 17G co-axial needles. Complications and overall diagnostic yields were determined.

Results
In all 70 patients referred, the procedure was completed successfully with an overall procedural yield of 95.7%. Inconclusive biopsies due to inadequate specimen were seen in two (4.2%) patients. No post-procedure major complication or mortality was observed. Minor complications were seen in three (4.2%) out of 70, including hematoma (<3 cm) in one patient and small pneumomediastinum in two patients.

Conclusion
Ultrasound-guided transthoracic mediastinal biopsy may be the pragmatic technique of choice in LMICs for the diagnosis of mediastinal masses as they provide real-time visualization and is cost-effective and saf

Understanding the role of lady health workers in improving access to eye health services in rural Pakistan – findings from a qualitative study

Background
In 1994, the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) Programme was established in Pakistan to increase access to essential primary care services and support health systems at the household and community levels. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in northern Pakistan, eye care is among the many unmet needs that LHWs were trained to address, including screening and referral of people with eye conditions to health facilities. However, despite an increase in referrals by LHWs, compliance with referrals in KPK has been very low. We explored the role of LHWs in patient referral and the barriers to patient compliance with referrals.

Methods
Qualitative methodology was adopted. Between April and June 2019, we conducted eight focus group discussions and nine in-depth interviews with 73 participants including patients, LHWs and their supervisors, district managers and other stakeholders. Data were analysed thematically using NVivo software version 12.

Results
LHWs have a broad understanding of basic health care and are responsible for a wide range of activities at the community level. LHWs felt that the training in primary eye care had equipped them with the skills to identify and refer eye patients. However, they reported that access to care was hampered when referred patients reached hospitals, where disorganised services and poor quality of care discouraged uptake of referrals. LHWs felt that this had a negative impact on their credibility and on the trust and respect they received from the community, which, coupled with low eye health awareness, influenced patients’ decisions about whether to comply with a referral. There was a lack of trust in the health care services provided by public sector hospitals. Poverty, deep-rooted gender inequities and transportation were the other reported main drivers of non-adherence to referrals.

Conclusions
Results from this study have shown that the training of LHWs in eye care was well received. However, training alone is not enough and does not result in improved access for patients to specialist services if other parts of the health system are not strengthened. Pathways for referrals should be agreed and explicitly communicated to both the health care providers and the patients.

Telementoring, Surgery training, Rural surgery, Breast cancer

Abstract
Telementorship allows an expert surgeon to mentor another surgeon through an advanced procedure from a remote location via 2-way audio-visual communication. The current article was planned to review the existing literature and evaluate the utility of telementorship regarding educating rural surgeons in Pakistan about multidisciplinary breast cancer care. Publications from 2016 to 2020 were searched on PubMed and GoogleScholar and 10 most recent publications were selected. Review of literature revealed that even though telementorship in this context might be comparable to onsite mentorship, multiple concerns need to be addressed before its implementation. These include lack of concrete evidence regarding its effectiveness, legal, security and financial issues. Thus, a pilot project evaluating the efficacy of telementorship needs to be conducted for rural breast surgeons working in Pakistan. If these studies show promise and an affordable, convenient and effective method of telementorship is devised, then it may become the future of breast surgery training in far-flung regions of Pakistan.

Peer-led surgery education: A model for a surgery interest group

Abstract
We present a systematic, sustainable, student-led model for a Surgery Interest Group in a low and middle-income country setting to encourage other medical students to establish similar groups in their institutions. Our model was developed at the Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi, and is comprised of medical students, teaching associates, residents, faculty and alumni. The group focuses on connecting medical students with an interest in surgery with opportunities to help them match in surgery training programs. The opportunities include, but are not limited to, skill development, personal development, mentorship and research. Our model has shown growth and expansion over the last four years, and can be successfully replicated in medical colleges across similar settings.

Challenges in Providing Surgical Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Study Among Operating Department Practitioners in Pakistan

ackground: Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) are neglected human resources for health with regard to both professional development and research for patient safety. The surgical theatre is associated with the highest mortality rates and with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. ODPs are key practitioners with respect to infection control during surgeries. Therefore, this study aims to describe challenges faced by ODPs. The secondary aim is to use empirical evidence to inform the public health sector management about both ODP professional development and improvement in surgical procedures, with a specific focus on pandemics.

Methods: A qualitative study has been conducted. Data collection was based on an interview guide with open-ended questions. Interviews with 39 ODPs in public sector teaching hospitals of Pakistan who have been working during the COVID-19 pandemic were part of the analysis. Content analysis was used to generate themes.

Results: Ten themes related to challenges faced by ODPs in delivering services during the pandemic for securing patient safety were identified: (i) Disparity in training for prevention of COVID-19; (ii) Shortcomings in COVID-19 testing; (iii) Supply shortages of personal protective equipment; (iv) Challenges in maintaining physical distance and prevention protocols; (v) Human resource shortages and role burden; (vi) Problems with hospital administration; (vii) Exclusion and hierarchy; (viii) Teamwork limitations and other communication issues; (ix) Error Management; and (x) Anxiety and fear.

Conclusions: The public health sector, in Pakistan and other developing regions, need to invest in the professional development of ODPs and improve resources and structures for surgical procedures, during pandemics and otherwis

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, are non-COVID patients left in the lurch?

Objectives: 1) To explore the possible impact of the pandemic on the health seeking behavior of the patients, 2) To explore the relation of socio-demographics on the utility of health-care facilities.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted by enrolling all patients ≥15 years of age presenting to the Out-Patient-Department of three main public-hospitals after obtaining ethical committee approval. A questionnaire with validated Urdu translation was filled by each participant that included socio-demographic data, pre-Covid and Covid-19 era health seeking behaviors and the impact of the pandemic on the utilization of healthcare facilities. Data was analyzed using SPSS V.19.

Results: A total of 393 patients were enrolled with a male preponderance (72%) and a median age range of 31-45 years. Fifty-eight percent of the study population was unemployed and 47.3% were seeking follow up care. The frequency of ER and multiple (>4 times) OPD visits were significantly decreased in the Covid-19 times whereas, the laboratory and radiology services were largely unaffected. A significant number of patients were not satisfied with the current healthcare facilities that was seen irrespective of the socio-demographic status. Emergency Room and radiology services were largely unaffected whereas, elective procedures and laboratory facilities were reported to be severely affected or delayed in relation to socio-demographic variables.

Conclusions: Healthcare inequalities have widened and depression has shown a sharp rise during this pandemic. The over-burdened healthcare facilities at the verge of collapse may miss out on the chronic non-Covid patients which would ultimately lead to increased morbidity and mortality.

Epidemiological trends in community acquired acute Kidney Injury in Pakistan: 25 years Experience from a Tertiary Care Renal Unit

Background: Epidemiological studies of community acquired acute kidney injury (AKI) are sparse especially from South Asia and none has published from Pakistan. Reported incidences from different countries vary with use of different criteria of defining AKI. There is also variation found in different class of income countries, hospital based versus community based AKI.

Methods: The current study was carried out in all adult AKI patients developing community acquired AKI and coming to a tertiary care renal institution from January 1990 to December 2014. This is a retrospective data collection from patient’s records and AKI was defined according to KDIGO guidelines. Trends among different groups which are classified in medical, obstetrical and surgical were observed and presented.

Results: In medical AKI there has been found a rise in toxic rhabdomyolysis, vivax malaria and dengue infection during later part of study. In obstetrical AKI observed continuous rise in numbers contributing to total AKI during these years. Surgical AKI included obstructed cases during initial ten years and only surgical trauma during later 15 years. Older age on presentation in medical AKI, and thrombocytopenia, deranged coagulation, deranged liver function, hyperkalemia, requirement of mechanical ventilation and multi organ failure in all groups remained predictors of higher mortality.

Conclusion: From Pakistan epidemiology for community acquired AKI has never been published on a large scale and this study would remain source of great information in this regard over coming years.

Change in the spectrum of orthopedic trauma: Effects of COVID-19 pandemic in a developing nation during the upsurge; a cross-sectional study

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great impact on orthopedic surgery with a significant curtailment in elective surgeries which is the major bread and butter for orthopedic surgeons. It was also observed that the spectrum of orthopedic trauma injuries has shifted from more severe and frequent road traffic accidents (high energy trauma) to general, low energy house-hold injuries like low energy fractures in the elderly, pediatric fractures, house-hold sharp cut injuries and nail bed lacerations. The aim of this study is to appraise the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on orthopedic surgical practice, both inpatient and outpatient facility.

Materials and methods: This is a retrospective cross sectional study conducted in a tertiary care teaching hospital. We collected data of patients admitted from February 1, 2020 to 30th April 2020 in the orthopedic service line using non-probability consecutive sampling. This study population was divided into pre-COVID and COVID eras (6 weeks each). The data included patient demographic parameters like age, gender and site of injury, mechanism of injury, diagnosis and procedure performed and carrying out of COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test in the COVID-era.

Results: We observed that outpatient clinical volume decreased by 75% in COVID era. Fifty percent of surgical procedures decreased in COVID era as compared to pre-COVID era. Trauma procedures reduced by 40% in COVID era. Most common mechanism of injury was household injuries like low energy falls. A significant reduction in elective surgeries by 67% was observed in the COVID era.

Conclusion: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the spectrum of orthopedic injury. More household injuries have occurred and are anticipated due to the ongoing effects of lockdown.